Water and Water Services in CETA

Stuart Trew, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives

Key Points

Unless otherwise noted, all Articles, Annexes and Appendices referenced in this section refer to the August 2014 final version of the CETA text first leaked by German broadcaster ARD and now available at http://eu-secretdeals.info/ceta.

The treatment of water and water services in international trade agreements remains a controversial issue globally. Where trade and investment treaties like the CETA are designed to govern the supply of goods and services, and the regulation thereof, based on free-market principles, access to clean drinking water and sanitation is considered a basic human right by the United Nations, to be delivered by governments or other not-for-profit entities.


Critique of political economy of water and the collaborative alternative

The approach and recognition of the water (and in general, water supply and sanitation) as a commons, a social good and a fundamental human right or vice versa, as a commodity and / or as a means for taxing citizens determines the policy management: private, public, social, based or not on democratic participation of citizens and workers[1].

The results of the private management of water, which is applied worldwide, are now known: degradation of water quality, increased water loss, deterioration of infrastructure and increasing prices[1][2]. The results of the public or social or public-community, based on cooperation between public and local and regional bodies, cooperatives, trade unions and other collectives of a community are also known: accomplished citizen involvement, strengthened quality water services and lower prices[1][3].


The Tube

el tubo

“Algeria has proposed to make a water transfer from the Rhone or the Rhine to «satiate the thirst of the desert», because it considers that «Europa is being warmed» by the gas sent across the continent through pipelines and is entitled to receive the same treatment”

World Water Forum, April 19, 2011.


Natural Capital Accounting and the Financialisation of Nature

Natural capital accounting is the latest effort to financialise our air, water, forests and land by putting a price on nature to save it. In the name of sustainable economic development, focusing on our natural capital, or environmental "assets", the theory claims that if private companies and countries account for environmental resources used in the production of other goods - accounting for their cost to the environment - we can better see the sustainability of our current economic path. The hope is that this knowledge leads us to mitigate the chances of degrading natural resources beyond their renewable capacity.