Council of Canadians Honorary Chairperson Maude Barlow is in Paris, France as an invited guest speaker celebrating the 10th anniversary of “Eau de Paris,” the city’s public water system. She spoke in front of a hall full of people about the importance of ensuring water remains in public hands.
As described by the celebration organizers, “In 2009, the Parisian municipality decided to create a new operator, Eau de Paris, to manage the public drinking water service, from the springs to the consumers. 10 years later, the challenge has been met. The public company has become one of the benchmark services in the water sector for its economic and industrial performance, for the quality of the service provided and for its commitment as an actor in the ecological transition of territories.”
The celebration’s theme was “Commons,” in acknowledgement that water is a part of a commons, a shared resource that should be available to all. In her book, Boiling Point: Government Neglect, Corporate Abuse and Canada’s Water Crisis, Barlow describes water commons and public trust this way: “Because it is necessary for life and ecosystem health and because there is no substitute for it, water must be regarded as a public trust and preserved in law and practice. Federal and provincial governments must be required to maintain the water commons in the public’s name.”
In line with its commitment to keeping water in the public sphere, in 2016 Paris became a “Blue Community” by adopting three resolutions to recognize the human right to water, promote public water and wastewater services, and to ban the sale of bottled water in municipal buildings and at municipal events.
At the time, Barlow said, “We applaud Paris for taking the bold new step to protect water as a commons by becoming a Blue Community today. The global water crisis is getting more serious by the day and it is being made worse by the corporate theft and abuse of water. Becoming a Blue Community like Paris has today is a critical step toward the stewardship of water locally and globally that we need now and for future generations.”