For many years, Maude Barlow has worked tirelessly to protect our environment and natural resources, as well as our rights to water – the necessity for water to be treated as a “Commons”. She has generated a huge body of work and earned awards and acclamation for her many achievements.
There are two competing narratives about the earth’s freshwater resources being played out in the 21st century. On one side is a powerful clique of decision-makers, heads of some powerful states, international trade and financial institutions and transnational corporations who do not view water as part of the global Commons or a public trust, but as a commodity, to be bought and sold on the open market. On the other is a global grassroots movement of local communities, the poor, slum dwellers, women, indigenous peoples, peasants and small farmers working with environmentalists, human rights activists, progressive water managers and experts in both the global North and the global South who see water as a Commons and seek to provide water for all of nature and all humans. This paper describes the tense – and globally threatening – relationship between these two prominent narratives and points to ways that the life affirming water Commons can be used as a framework to bring water justice to all.