Privatization of Water. A Violation of Human Rights?

A Case Study on Business Practices with Bottled Water

Master's Thesis, 2015

89 Pages, Grade: 80 von 100 (very good)

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Table of Contents


List of Tables

Acronyms & Abbreviations

1. Prologue

2. Introduction
2.1. Aim of the Study
2.2. Resent State of Research Literature/Sources
2.3. Research Approach

3. Water
3.1. Water - a Basic Need
3.1.1. Where do we have water
3.1.2. Why do we need water
3.1.3. Who uses most water
3.2. Definitions of Water
3.2.1. Safe and drinking water
3.2.2. Bottled water
3.3. Water and Life in Human Dignity
3.3.1. Human dignity
3.3.2. Water as Millennium Development Goal

4. Privatization of Water
4.1. Water as a Commodity
4.2. Development of Bottled Water Market
4.3. Bottled Water
4.3.1. Facts
4.3.2. Critique

5. The Human Right to Water
5.1. Introduction
5.2. Water on the International Agenda
5.3. Water - a Human Right
5.3.1. Human Rights in General
5.3.2. The Human Right to Water
5.3.3. The Human Right to Water - Challenges
5.4. The Human Right to Water and Responsibilities
5.4.1. Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights
5.4.2. Global Corporate Initiatives

6. Cases
6.1. Coca-Cola Company
6.1.1. The Company
6.1.2. Coca-Cola Company and Bottled Water
6.1.3. Coca-Cola Company‘s Bottled Water Business Practices & Human Rights
6.1.4. Case Studies
6.2. Nestlé S.A
6.2.1. The Company
6.2.2. Nestlé S.A. and Bottled Water
6.2.3. Nestlé S.A.‘s Bottled Water Business Practices & Human Rights
6.2.4. Case Studies

7. Conclusion

Reference List

Statutory Declaration


The purpose of this Master‘s thesis is to examine weather the human right to water is violated or enhanced by water privatization. A special focus is placed on the commercialisation of bottled water as it became an omnipresent beverage around the globe. Whereas for some bottled water represents a luxury live-style commodity, it is a life saving remedy for others, suffering from water scarcity. In this context, the business practices of the multinational enterprises Coca-Cola Company and Nestlé S.A. are examined. This work exclusively uses open sources to obtain a comprehensive view and to analyse the proponents‘ and opponents‘ arguments with regard to the respective business practices. After giving an overview of the introduction, the main chapters deal with the resource water, the genesis of the human right to water and the effects of water privatisation.

KEYWORDS: (Human Rights, Water Privatization, Bottled Water, Nestlé, Coca-Cola)

List of Tables

Table 1 Summary of requirement for water service level to promote heal

Table 2 Global sum of all withdrawals

Table 3 Average of country ratios

Table 4 Various types of bottled water

Table 5 Countries in which more than 5 per cent of the urban population uses bottled water as their main drinking water source

Table 6 Sales of the leading 10 bottled still water brands of the United States in 2014

Table 7 Sales of the leading 10 bottled still water brands of the United States in 2014 - pooled in Companies

Table 8 The leading ten most valuable bottled water brands worldwide based on brand value in 2010

Table 9 The leading ten most valuable bottled water brands worldwide based on brand value in 2010 - pooled in Companies

Table 10 2013 The Coca-Cola system water use by source in billion litres

Table 11 Nestlé sales in 2013

Acronyms & Abbreviations

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

1. Prologue

Venue Bolivia

Dominic Greene, chairman of an ecological organization called Greene Planet and a member of the Quantum organization seeks to stage a coup d'état in Bolivia to seize control of that country's water supply. Using his associates in the organization, and manipulating his powerful contacts within the United States (US) Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), he promises to overthrow the existing regime and to give control of the country to an exiled general named Medrano in exchange for a parcel of land that appears barren on the surface, but actually houses the valuable natural resource. When Greene and Medrano meet to finalize the coup, Greene reveals his true plans to Medrano forcing Medrano to accept a new contract that makes Greene Planet Bolivia's sole water utility company at crippling rates. The contract is never executed since it is stopped by the British Secret Intelligence Service MI6, strictly speaking by double-zero agent James Bond, in his mission ‘Quantum of Solace‘ (Foster, 2008).

Venue Paris / France

Since 1997, France‘s capital has Europe‘s first ‘Water bar‘ located in the centre of the city, in the basement of the department store Colette. Guests have a choice of more than 60 different sorts of water from all over the world. Bottled water there can cost more than 5,000 times the amount of water from the tap. Nevertheless, water in restaurants have become a hip drink, and make up about 50 percent of non alcoholic sales in restaurants and sold at a price thousand times more expensive than tap water. In 2010 the Coca-Cola Company started urging restaurant owners to stop offering tap water to costumers. With ‘Cap the Tap‘ the request for tap water should be converted into revenue-generating beverages (Colette, 2014; Tvedt, 2013: 156f; Duclaux, Damez, Clement, Chadian & Di Leone, 2011: 28; von Wiesenberger, 2001: 47; Bellatti, 2014).

Venue ‘First World‘

Bottled water has become a modern refreshing live-style beverage, with attributes to enhance beauty, foster vitality, and to defy ageing. Europeans drink today about 130 litres per year, about ten times more bottled water than they did years ago. Three out of four Americans drink bottled water, and for one out of five it is the only water they drink. In the US eleven billion US Dollars are spend for bottled water, the largest consumer market. There are predictions that carbonated soft drinks will be overtaken by bottled water in the US by 2020 (Escobar, Martirosian & Chaung, 2014: 2; Duclaux, Damez, Clement, Chadian & Di Leone, 2011: 23; Salina, 2009: 36:32min; Hogan, 2014: 30; Achtnich, 2004: 27:55min).

Venue Human Development Report 2006 (Power, poverty and the global water crisis)

“Of course I wish I were in school. I want to learn to read and write... But how can I? My mother needs me to get water.“ - Yeni Bazan, age 10, El Alto, Bolivia

“They [the factories] use so much water while we barely have enough for our basic needs, let alone to water our crops.“ - Gopul Gujur, farmer, Rajasthan, India

“The water is not good in this pond. We collect it because we have no alternative. All the animals drink form the pond as well as the community. Because of the water we are also getting different diseases.“ - Zenebech Jemel, Chobare Meno, Ethiopia (United Nations Development Progamme, 2006: 1)

2. Introduction

While agent 007 prevented the exploitation of ground water by private interests and greed on scene in the “eco-thriller” (USA Today, 2012), union-leader Oscar Olivera Foronda faced down a similar scenario in his home country Bolivia in April 2000. This is one of the most prominent cases concerning the global conflict of water-privacy. It “highlights the importance of social and community participation of water resource management and the provision of water and sanitation services, and what can go wrong when these processes are absent or flawed“ (Global Water Partnership, n.d.).

Even though plans of influential individuals and organisations are not as ambitious as the plan of the villain in the Bond movie, they do represent a reality in many countries with a similar situation concerning the privatization of water as in Bolivia at the time (Council of Hemispheric Affairs, 2012). A fundamental reason for this situation is the pressure of the financial policy, particularly by the World Bank. Many African and Asian states are faced with the same dilemma as Bolivia concerning the privatization of natural resources and sufficient supply for its population. Reflecting on the current situation Jadot (2012) summarizes that “access to safe drinking water is an endemic problem around the world“. The finance organisations such as the World Bank, the World Trade Organization (WTO), and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) are supporting the endeavours of the big multinationals to privatize the water market (McClanahan, 2014: 404). As a consequence of these fiscal policy since the 1980s and the incidents in Bolivia, a discussion erupted concerning the declaration of water and the handling of the privatization (Lappè, 2014). During the last 30 years the privatization of water by global players has increased which affect the areas of (i) drinking water supply and its infrastructure by companies such as Bechtel, Thames water, Veolia water, and Suez, (ii) sales of bottled water by companies such as Nestlé, e.g. Pure Life, San Pellegrino, Coca-Cola Company, e.g. Bonaqua, Dasani, PepsiCo, e.g. Aquafina, Aqua Minerale, and Danone, e.g. Evian, Volvic, who exploit and skim ground water as well as spring water for their production in many parts of the world.

A milestone in the discussion about privatization of water was the implementation of the human right to water and sanitation by the United Nations (UN) was resolution (res.) 64/292 in 2010 (UN General Assembly, 2010). The implementation followed the request of Bolivia on the basis of the experiences with ‘Cochabamba Water War‘. “The human right to water is indispensable for leading a life in human dignity“ (United Nations, 2002: Pt. 1.1.). During the last 30 years the topic and difficulties about the resource water was put on the international political agenda and discussed at various meetings and conferences. Besides the implementation as a human right, the improvement of the water supply is one of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) from the UN. For living beings water is one of the essential components to survive. But potable water is a scarce resource that is allocated unevenly. 97 percent of the surface water is ocean salt water, and only three percent is freshwater. The European Parliament stated that today still one person out of six (about one billion humans) has no access to clean water and around 1.5 million people die annually due to polluted water and emerging diseases (European Parliament, 2011).

The year 2015 will be an important and crucial year for the international community. MDG Nr. 7c of the UN goals seeks to halve the number of people having no access to clean drinking water by 2015 (United Nations, n.d. - a). It would already be seen as a success if by that time ‘only‘ 600 million people would not have access to clean water (Reker, 2007). The UN was sure that it would achieve this goal but in March this year it became clear that the figures have not improved. Irina Bokova, Director-General of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), concluded in March that 748 million people are still without access to an improved drinking water source (UNESCO, 2015b: v). Despite the fact that safe drinking water is a human right it is not legally binding and therefore not enforceable.

2.1. Aim of the Study

Big international companies praise the advantages of treating water as an economic good for the consumer. They argue that the responsible handling of the scarce resource of drinking water can only be regulated by price (McKinsey & Company, 2009). Additionally “the belief [exists] that private industry is better able to serve the people than the elected government“ (Segers, 2010: 4). One of the most important proponents is Nestlé chairman and former Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, who sees water as a food product, that due to ecological reasons should subjected to the market value to protect against mismanagement. On the other side you will find activists such as Maude Barlow and Tony Clarke of Canada and Vandana Shiva of India. They request water to be handled as public domain, since they see water as a natural resource, as an essential good for all living creatures that has to be provided by each government. The selling of water as a trading commodity is “ethically questionable“ (Parsons & Maclaren, 2009: 207) and only for the “profit minded“ (Glennon, 2002: 6). During the last decade bottled water has become a profitable business for food and drink companies. Globally about 100 billions of US Dollars are spent on bottled water (Salina, 2009: 35:26min). Shiva (2002) summarises that the big multinationals are ignoring the social, cultural and religious value of water for the community and therefore causing social and political tensions, as seen in the example of Bolivia.

This thesis seeks to explain the importance of water for humans, outlines how much water is needed in order to survive, and from whom water is sourced. I will define safe, drinking, and bottled water and examine ‘water and the dignity of life‘ and how the topic water became a MDG. The next part deals with the privatization of water, water as a commodity and the development of the bottled water market, outlining facts of this market. The human right to water chapter describes what human rights are in general, and how access to water became a human right. This part will end with an overview about corporate responsibilities on human rights and introduce some corporate initiatives that deal with the topic. The thesis will point out the business practices in the context of the human right to water of the two global players in bottled water, Coca-Cola Company and Nestlé S.A.

This thesis aims to answer the question of whether bottled water business practices of food and drink multinationals are in violation of the human right to water or, to the contrary, whether their business practices help to guarantee the human right to water. By means of a historic overview of the human right to water and sanitation and an analysis of the business practices and initiatives of bottled water companies, this work seeks to provoke a discussion of who is responsible and best qualified to guarantee the human right to water.

2.2. Resent State of Research Literature/Sources

A number of academic treaties were published on the topic of ‘water privatization‘, analysing the dimension and outcomes of the privatization policies of governmental services that are supported by the World Bank; and looking at the events in Bolivia that led to the ‘Cochabamba water wars‘. There is plenty of analysis concerning bottled water suppliers and their business policies. However during my research I was not able to find academic publications that compared the business practices of bottled water suppliers to the human right to water and sanitation after its implementation in 2010. This might be related to the fact that the academic world has been waiting for the results of the MDGs, which will be finalised this year, before any further analysis is made.

The leading literature about water privatization and bottled water is published by Shiva (2002) ‘Water Wars: Privatization, Pollution, and Profit‘, Barlow & Clarke (2002) ‘Blue Gold - The Battle against Corporate Theft of the World's Water‘, Rosemann (2005) ‘Drinking Water Crisis in Pakistan and the Issue of Bottled Water - The Case of Nestlé´s ‘Pure Life‘, and Gleick (2010) ‘Bottled & Sold‘. Furthermore Bottled Life (Schnell, 2012) and Flow (Salina, 2009) are leading documentaries in this discussion.

2.3. Research Approach

For this work, Coca-Cola Company and Nestlé Société Anonyme (S.A.), the two main global players of bottled water are used for case studies; with which I want to analyse their business practices in context of the human right to water and sanitation. These two companies were chosen for particular reasons:

(i) Coca-Cola Company is the world largest beverage producer. Besides soft-drinks, the company has also produced various water brands (Dasani, Glacéau Smartwater, Glacéau Vitaminwater, Bonaqa, Valser) for more than 15 years,

(ii) Nestlé S.A., currently controls about 60 of the world‘s bottled water brands, among them Perrier, San Pellegrino, Vittel, and Poland Spring. Nestlé‘s annual sales of bottled water alone total some CHF 7.2 billion (Nestlé Waters, n.d. - d). And it provides with Pure Life the most successful bottled water brand in the developing world.

The case studies are based upon publicly available data, mainly published by the companies and opponents themselves. For the companies it includes their activities, their histories, their bottled water sector, their marketing strategies, brand management and how the human right to water is interpreted. The case studies also cover what the companies allege to be doing in the area of corporate social responsibility (CSR). Both companies have a well structured homepage with several sources to the topic. Furthermore, several company video streams are available online. The statements, principles, and business guidelines of the companies are often in contradiction to the arguments of their opponents and the legal perspective.

3. Water

3.1. Water - a Basic Need

For all living beings on planet earth, water is one of the essential necessities to survive (Hildering, 2006: 28). UNESCO (2015b: 2) states: “Water is at the core of sustainable development. Water resources, and the range of services they provide, underpin poverty reduction, economic growth and environmental sustainability. From food and energy security to human and environmental health, water contributes to improvements in social well-being and inclusive growth, affecting the livelihoods of billions.“

Since the beginning of human civilisation all societies have been formed by the efforts to control and use water (Tvedt, 2013: 8). Another way to express water´s importance to human life and culture is the meaning of the word water. The term water in languages like Arabic, Farsi, Urdu and Hindustani is Ab. Abado raho is the greeting for prosperity and abundance attaching the importance of the source for the Middle East and South Asia region (Shiva, 2002: 1). The vital importance of water is mentioned in the Qur'an (cited in United Nations Development Programm, 2006: 2): ‘By means of water we give life to everything‘. The Bolivian ambassador to the UN, Mr. Solón, summarized this and reduced it to the 3 key words "Water is life" during his speech before the General Assembly of the UN at the implementation of ‘the Human Right to water and sanitation‘ in 2010 (Solón, 2010). The link between life and health as two main subjects depending on water is mentioned in the first sentence of the General Comment No. 15 and thus reflects the importance of the interrelation (United Nations, 2002: Pt. 1.1).

3.1.1 Where do we have water

The surface of the earth is covered by about 70 percent water (approximately 1.4 billion cubic kilometres). Despite this vast amount of existing water, 97 to 97.5 percent of the surface water is ocean salt water, while only 2.5 to 3 percent is fresh water and can be used as drinking water (Barlow & Clarke, 2002: 5; US Geological Survey's, n.d. - a; UNESCO, 2003: 8). Every year almost 110,000 cubic kilometres of rain falls on land. From this amount around one-third remains as renewable freshwater resources like surface runoff and groundwater. The rest of about 70,000 cubic kilometres rainwater evaporates or transpires from woods, grassland and cropland (FAO, 2015). One main fact about fresh water is, that it is not available in all parts on earth in the same amount. In almost all regions of the Northern Hemisphere access to fresh water is ensured by nature. The majority of South America and the Islands between Asia and Australia have enough access to fresh water as well. Other regions such as central Africa, north-eastern India, north-eastern parts of South America and South-East Asia are declared in the UN Development Report 4 as having “medium to low water stress (...), experience water scarcity which is purely due to institutional and economic barriers“ (UN Water, 2012: 126). Physical water scarcity is given in regions such as California, Nevada, and Arizona (USA) and to Mexico, the Arabic countries in north of Africa over to India, Central Asia and the northern part of China. The UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) defines water scarcity

“(...) as the point at which the aggregate impact of all users impinges on the supply or quality of water under prevailing institutional arrangements to the extent that the demand by all sectors, including the environment, cannot be satisfied fully. Water scarcity is a relative concept and can occur at any level of supply or demand. Scarcity may be a social construct (a product of affluence, expectations and customary behaviour) or the consequence of altered supply patterns - stemming from climate change for example.“ (UNDESA, n.d. - b).

The fact that water is not available in the same equal amount on earth is followed by the discussion if the world is running out of fresh water. Barlow & Clarke (2002: xi) agree with this hypothesis. The UN alleges that the situation is not that serious. Their statement at the World Water Day 2007 about the quantity of water available was that “there is enough freshwater for seven billion people [on this planet] but it is allocated and distributed unevenly“ (United Nations, 2007: 9). To this point the Human Development Report 2006 adds “[t]he problem is that some people - notably the poor - are systematically excluded“ (Human Nations Development Programme, 2006: 3). Nevertheless the UN draws attention in their General Comment No.15 that ”water is a limited natural resource“ (United Nations, 2002: Pt. 1.1). According to Salman & Mclnerney-Lankford (2004: 1), increasing population density, urbanisation, environmental changes, as well as disturbances in hydrological cycles are the main factors why water scarcity exists in parts of the world. Hall & Lobina (2012: 3) argue, that companies and many communities get into conflict over the capturing of scarce water resources and through causing environmental damage with their waste. The World Economic Forum (WEF) reports in its current Global Risk Report 2015 that water crises is the number one global risks in terms of impact over the next ten years (WEF, 2015: 14ff). For Brabeck-Letmathe (2015) the WEF report points out, that “the water crises is becoming more and more real, acute and severe“. On March 19 UNESCO summarised the 2015 UN World Water Development Report (WWDR) with ‘The planet has never been so thirsty‘ (UNESCO, 2015a).

3.1.2. Why do we need water

Water is essential for (i) human bodies´ biochemical processes and (ii) industrial and agricultural production processes. Like every living being, human beings needs water, since two-thirds of its body consists of water and the brain consists of 75 percent water. Water is essential for the chemical processes in the body and for taking essential substances via the blood to the cells, and for eliminating harmful chemicals. The loss of just 20 percent of one's own body fluid can cause death. Without eating, one can survive several weeks, without water however only a few days. A recommendation of the World Health Organization (WHO) advises that an adult, depending on the activity and location, should consume a minimum of two litres to 4.5 litres per day to avoid dehydration (Salón, 2010; US Geological Survey‘s, n.d. - b; Howard & Bartram, 2003: 1ff).

The importance of the interrelation between water, life and health is set down in the first sentence of the General Comment No. 15 (United Nations, 2002: Pt. 1.1). Besides the fact that water quenches thirst and appeases hunger, water is linked also to hygiene. A lack of access to adequate water is one of the major reasons for the spread of disease. 2014 UNDESA mentioned the situation in developing countries where 80 percent of diseases were caused by unsafe water conditions (UNDESA, 2014a). WHO counts diseases such as hepatitis A, intestinal helminths, schistosomiasis, diarrhoeal diseases as direct consequences of the lack of access to safe water (World Health Organization, n.d.). The Human Development Report 2006 published the example of child deaths: 1.8 million per year because of unclean water and poor sanitation conditions (United Nations Development Programme, 2006: 3). Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon pointed out that every year unsafe water causes more deaths than “all forms of violence, including war“ in his speech on World Water Day 2010 (UN News Centre, 2010). Added to this it is also notable from the perspective of public health that “bad water kills more people than AIDS“, as the former director of IMF, Mr. Michael Camdessus asserts in the documentary Flow (Salina, 2009: 20:04min).

The Human Development Report of 2006 cites the WHO, which says in its definition of safe and drinking water that 20 litres of clean water per day per person is required and specified as ‘social minimum‘ (United Nations Development Programme, 2006: 3). UNESCO (2003: 15) highlights that the 20 litres have to be considered more as a reference value, than as a defined level. Meanwhile, the UN speaks about water stress at a value below 1,700 cubic metres of water per person per year, water scarcity is less than 1,000 cubic metres per person per year. Absolute scarcity is dealt with, if a person has no access to more than 500 cubic metres of fresh water (UNDESA, 2014c).

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Table 1: Summary of requirement for water service level to promote health (Howard & Bartram, 2003: Table S1, p22)

In its World Water Day 2007 report, the UN (2007: 8) stated that water scarcity is related to poverty, and that in developing countries one in five people lack access to clean drinking water of 20 litres per day. Highlighted from another perspective: about 2.67 billion people are affected by water scarcity at least one month per year (Hoekstra et al., 2012: 3). In contrast to scarcity in developing countries, Europeans and US Americans consume an average of about 200 to 600 litres of water per day. Furthermore, the Human Development Report 2006 suggests that “[p]oor people in urban areas of developing countries not only pay more for their water than high-income residents of the same city - they also pay more than people in rich countries“ (United Nations Development Programme, 2006: 52). Typically five to ten times more is the rate these poor segments of the population have to pay in affected cities around the globe (e.g. Nairobi, Lima, Jakarta or Manila) (ibid.).

Beside the physical need of water for humans “clear water and sanitation are among the most powerful drivers for human development“ (United Nations Development Programme, 2006: 5). Miller (2013: 26) defines human development as “economic aid, to include quality of life, education, capacities-building, moral development, governance, leadership, interdependence, environmental sustainability“. In its 1987 report, ‘Our Common Future‘, the United Nations´ World Commission on Environment and Development defined `sustainable development´ as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs“ (United Nations, 1987: c. 2 Pt. 1). The link between dirty water and infectious disease is broken when new infrastructure is implemented to give access to safe water. Mortality reduction and the increase in life expectancy are just two of the positive effects. In particular developing countries have often to deal with diseases and causes of death by unclean or lack to adequate water (Tvedt, 2013: 71; Salman & Mclnerney-Lankford, 2004: 1; Howard & Bartram, 2003: 1). How life threats were reduced and opportunities improved can be understood by looking at living conditions over a hundred years ago in cities like London, New York and Paris “Clean water became the vehicle for a leap forward in human progress“ (United Nations Development Report, 2006: 5). Child deaths rates as high as they are now in much of Sub-Sahara Africa, waterborne infectious disease and young girls being kept home from school in order to collect water do not concern western societies anymore today (ibid.). Solving the problems of water is the prerequisite for the fight against poverty. Shiva (2002: 24) indicates, that water in history and people‘s community has always had a high social, cultural and religious value, an essential aspect in the debate over the use and distribution of water.

Water is a key element, which is closely linked to the progress of social development of societies, as human history has always shown. Development in this spirit is defined as “the process in which someone or something grows or changes and becomes more advanced“ (“Development“, n.d.). Development of water has impacts on three major pillars:

(i) domestic (ii) industrial (iii) agricultural. If sufficient water is not available, it impedes development and dignified life (Rosemann, 2005: 5). To lead a healthy, dignified, and productive life, while maintaining the ecological systems that provide water (and that also depend on water) is a part of Water Security and therefore Water Security is an “integral part of the broader conception of human security“ (United Nations Development Programme, 2006: 3f).

3.1.3. Who uses most water

Currently more than 7.2 billion (Worldometers, n.d.) people are sharing the resources of the world. “In 2014 over half of the global population was urban“ and this is expected to increase further (UNDESA, 2014b: 1). Water is the basis for many activities and daily procedures. It is a prerequisite for the things we drink (as soft drinks, tea, coffee or in alcoholic beverages). It is needed for food production, food preparation, agriculture, and it is needed for a lot of industrial processes, as well as an energy source and for hygiene (UNESCO, 2003: 25; UNDESA, n.d. - a). For all these processes and uses, water has to be removed partly from rivers and aquifers by an adequate infrastructure. This process is called

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

‘water withdrawal‘. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) distinguishes three types of water withdrawal: (i) agricultural, (ii) municipal, including domestic, (iii) industrial water withdrawal. The current global sum of all withdrawals and the average of country ratios are shown in the following tables:

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Between regions, the average of country ratios differ significantly. For example South Asia‘s ratios are 91 percent for agricultural, seven percent for municipal and two percent for industrial water withdrawal. For the same sections western Europe has the following values: 8, 16 and 77 percent (ibid.). Summarising both tables the agricultural sector is clearly the predominant consumer of water.

Most of the withdrawn water returns back to the environment during the cycle of water usage. “The quality of the returned water may be less than the quality when it was originally removed“ says the FAO (2015). The poor parts of the world are most affected by the contamination of water resources, as well as the tensions of their water systems by population and economic growth. In its WWDR of 2003 UNESCO assumes that eight litres of fresh water is polluted by one litre of wastewater. Furthermore, in the report it is being assumed that around two million tons of all kinds of waste are being disposed worldwide in water systems daily. In particular industrial waste, agricultural waste, chemicals and sewage is understood as waste (UNESCO, 2003: 9f). In this regard Shiva points out "there is no substitute for clear, fresh water, (...) no alternative, that is why it has to be protected" (Salina, 2009: 1:10:18h).

UNESCO refers to the fact that water has to be shared, both for the type of use and type of user (e.g. administrative regions sharing resources like river basins or aquifers) (UNESCO, 2003: 25, UNDESA, n.d. - a). The Pacific Institute (2007) highlighted one fact about the use of water for industrial purposes - that during the process for the production of one litre of bottled water, three litre of water is needed.

3.2. Definitions of water

Water is defined as “a colourless, transparent, odourless, liquid which forms the seas, lakes, rivers, and rain and is the basis of the fluids of living organisms“ (“Water“, n.d.). The special requirement of this essential element is, that it is “the only substance found on earth in the three forms solid, liquid, and gas“ (US Environmental Protection Agency, 2004).

3.2.1. Safe and drinking water

Usually drinking water comes from surface or ground water. Surface water is water from sources open to the atmosphere, such as rivers, lakes, and reservoirs. Ground water is water pumped from wells drilled, bored, or otherwise constructed hole into underground aquifers or geologic foundations containing water. The quantity depends on the nature of the rock, sand, or soil in the aquifer from which the water is drawn (US Environmental Protection Agency, 2009: 7; FDA, 2014). The WHO has two definitions, one for drinking water and then another that describes safe drinking water. Drinking water, also referred to as domestic water, is water used for domestic purposes including consumption for drinking, cooking, food preparation, personal hygiene and similar purposes. Safe drinking water is water with microbial, chemical and physical characteristics that meet WHO guidelines or national standards on drinking water quality (World Health Organisation, 1996a, 1996b, n.d.).

The UN sees the access possibilities to safe drinking water as: household connection, public standpipe, borehole, protected dug well, protected spring and rainwater collection. Not included are unprotected wells, unprotected springs, rivers or ponds, vendor-provided water, bottled water (due to limitations in the potential quantity, not quality, of the water), tanker truck water (UNDESA, 2005b: 20).

3.2.2. Bottled water

It might seem strange that the UN excludes bottled water but the water through household connections and public standpipes is much more heavily regulated in the western world. In the USA for example, usually the water is filtered, chlorinated, fluoridated, processed and tested (McClanahan, 2014: 410). Not much is really known about bottled water. All that is communicated is the information on the label and it has been proven in the past that that information was misleading and incorrect.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) defines drinking water in bottles or other constrainers more in detail. According to this drinking water is

“(...) water sold for human consumption in sanitary containers. It must have no calories or sugar. Drinking water may be sodium-free or contain very low amounts of sodium. Flavors, extracts, or essences may be added to drinking water, but they must comprise less than one percent by weight of the final product (...).“

In the absence of these requirements, the products have to be considered as soft drinks, like ‘Carbonated water‘, ‘seltzer‘, ‘soda water‘, and ‘tonic water‘ (FDA, 2014).

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Table 4: Various types of bottled water, for complete regulatory definitions, see 21 CFR 165.110(a)(2) (FDA, 2009: Table 1)

Gleick (2010: 55) adds three more standards for bottled water in the USA:

(i) Ground water, includes water from a surface saturated zone that is under a pressure equal to or greater than atmospheric pressure. Ground water must not be under the direct influence of surface water as defined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
(ii) Sterile water, that meets the requirements under the Sterility Test in the 23rd Revision of the US Pharmacopeia.
(iii) Well water, which comes from a hole bored, drilled, or otherwise constructed in the ground, which taps the water of an aquifer.

Many other terms like pure, purest, pristine, premium, mountain water and clean are “advertising descriptors with no official meaning“ (Suffet, cited in Gleick, 2004: 31). Misunderstanding and confusion is not only given by terms for the consumer. Images like mountains or snow on bottles do not express the area of origin of the water source, because there are no appropriate regulations (Gleick, 2004: 31). What had been an identification for a specific source has often became a brand. Often this is because companies had to find other sources of supply, as the demand for water had “skyrocketed“ (Gleick, 2010: 52). As an example, Poland Spring (a famous bottled water brand of Nestlé in the USA) was “guilty of false advertising by implying on their labels that the water came from Poland Spring“ (ibid.).

3.3. Water and Life in Human Dignity

3.3.1. Human Dignity

“The human right to water is indispensable for leading a life in human dignity“ (United Nations, 2002: Pt. 1.1). General Comment No. 15, starts with this sentence and uses articles (art.) 11 and 12 about the right to an adequate standard of living and the right to the highest attainable standard of health as a frame providing guidelines for the interpretation of the right to water, because “it is prerequisite for the realization of other human rights“ (ibid.). State parties obligations to the right are clearly outlined by the comment as well as defined actions that would constitute a violation (United Nations, n.d. - f).

However the term ‘life in human dignity‘ is not specifically defined by the UN. To get an idea of what that might entail one could look at literature, where the concept is explained mainly from religious or philosophical context. In Immanuel Kant‘s Metaphysic of Morals every individual is treated as a ends and not just as a means to an end (McCrudden, 2008: 659). From a legal perspective this concept is summed up by McCrudden that every human being has an intrinsic value simply by being human (ontological claimsoft) and that this intrinsic value is recognised and respected by others (relational claim). These concepts follow the idea, that every human being has an inalienable right to be valued and to receive ethical treatment. In Law v Canada, Justice Iacobucci wrote, on behalf of a unanimous majority of Canada's Supreme Court, Human dignity means that an individual or group feels self-respect and self-worth. It is concerned with physical and psychological integrity and empowerment. "Human dignity is harmed by unfair treatment premised upon personal traits or circumstances which do not relate to individual needs, capacities, or merits.“ (Iacobucci, 1999: 530).

So what does that mean with regard to water? The WHO gives examples that describe a dignified access to water. By enumerating certain examples the WHO tries to describe in a broader sense what a human being needs: that it is undignified to have to walk more than one kilometre from its place to use to get safe drinking water but also that it necessary to have access to at least 20 litres of water to achieve a secure and adequate standard of living and reach the highest attainable standard of health (1996a, 1996b, n.d.).

3.3.2. Water as Millennium Development Goal

During the 55. UN General Assembly, known as the Millennium Assembly of New York in September 2000, precise goals for improvement of living circumstances for human beings and their environment were codified. These goals were called MDGs and classified in eight main goals. The MDGs have 21 sub goals with 60 official indicators. 2015 is the deadline for the achievement of the goals (United Nations, n.d. - b.). As the preliminary political inventory the data of 1990 was taken.

At that time, 1.2 billion people (about 28 percent of the developing world‘s population) had less than one US Dollar a day to make ends meet and were living in extreme poverty (United Nations, 2005; UNDESA, 2005a: 2). 824 million adults (20 percent of the developing world‘s population) faced malnutrition (UNDESA, 2005a: 3f) and 33 percent of children in the developing countries were underweight (ibid.: 6). An estimated 76 percent of the world's population used improved drinking water resources in 1990 (United Nations, 2014: 44).

The topic about access to safe drinking water belongs to Goal No. 7 and is under the heading of ‘ensuring environmentally sustainability‘. The Exact Target 7c is to: ‘halve by 2015, the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe water and basic sanitation‘ (United Nations, n.d. - g). The MDG Report 2014 (United Nations, 2014: 43ff) had draw up an interim result three years before the deadline. Overall it was concluded that 45 countries still had not achieved the MDG Goal No. 7 in 2012. The access to clean drinking water was the biggest improvement within Goal No. 7 of the MDG; since more than 2.3 billion people gained access to clean water during this period. Of those, 1.6 billion were provided with piped drinking water supplies, that means a maximum of service and best health outcomes. In 2012 about 748 million people had to use unsafe drinking water sources, of which 173 million people received their water from rivers, creeks and ponds. The rest of them from open wells or badly protected springs. The report once again points out, that the benefit of better springs is not synonymous with the possibility of the access of secure water, since many of these facilities are micro-biologically contaminated. Even three years later, in its current WWDR 2015, it is stated that nothing has changed on the figure of 748 million people having no access to an improved source of drinking water (UNESCO, 2015b: v).

4. Privatization of Water

Water as a commodity is often used in context with the debate about private water supply and the privatisation of water. The World Bank and WTO recommend in its development policies the privatization of water supply. Since late 90s they promoted more and more ‘privatization‘ (Ashtana, 2009: 127). The link between financial support and the obligation to privatize public utilities, enabled the beginning of the privatization of water facilities and supplies.

The policy of privatization of water attracted public interest with the escalated situation in Bolivia 1999. The World Bank threatened to freeze Bolivia's development loans, unless the water supply of Cochabamba and El Alto was not privatized. As a result, the municipal waterworks and sewage systems came into the focus of investors (Shultz, cited in Salina, 2009: 16:10min). In 1999, Aguas del Tunari, a subsidiary of the US American company Bechtel Cooperation, had secured in a secret bidding operation, the rights to the communal water and waste-water systems of the city of Cochabamba for 40 years (Bechtel, 2005; The Democracycenter, n.d.; Chatterjee, 2003). It had been responsible for the maintenance and the extension of the urban drinking water system of Cochabamba, the third largest city of Bolivia. Bechtel corporation with its price policy had provoked the population and with that, its own customers. In only a few weeks, the price of water out of the tap had risen by more than 50 percent (Shultz 2008: 18). Others, like The Democracycenter (n.d.) even maintained the rise was more than 200 percent. Union leader Foronda formed an uprising against water privacy in Bolivia based upon the price policy of Bechtel. The protests were oppressed by an act of violence by security officials. One demonstrator was killed (a 17 year old student) and several people were injured (ibid.: 9). That is why this confrontation over water was called the ‘Cochabamba Water War‘, later known as ‘Bolivia´s Water Wars‘ (Olivera, 2004) and became an epitome for neo-liberalism water policy. In the end, the Bechtel corporation was forced to get out of this business-field and to cancel the contract with the Bolivian state and to sue the country at the International Centre for Settlement of Investment (ICSID), a platform of the World Bank, for the loss of profit of more than 50 million US Dollars (The Democracycenter, n.d.).

A major part of the literary criticism of privatization of water finds its origin in the Bolivian events (Shiva, 2002; Barlow, 2001; Balow & Clark, 2002; Salina, 2009; Shultz, 2008). Between the possibility of private or public management of water supplies, public-private partnership (PPP) is a possibility as well. PPP is a “government service or private business venture which is funded and operated through a partnership of government and one or more private sector company“(UN Water, 2012: 376). Even the World Bank recommends PPPs, because it “(...) can help improve access to safe water and sanitation services by providing a number of services such as delivering service to households, building new infrastructure, improving technology or using clean technology to better meet the needs of the community“ (World Bank, n.d.). This strategy presents an opportunity to share risks and resources (especially money).

The IFC is responsible for lending and financing World Bank projects. Since the 1980s, it has been the largest contributor to water management in developing countries and offers loans and financing on telecommunications and water utilities on release from governments. IFC itself asserts that 40 percent of their cases have dealt with water in 2013 (Lappè, 2014). Already in 1992, on the International Conference on Water and the Environment (ICWE), known as the Dublin Conference, it was stated, that water should have an economic value, because “past failure to recognize the economic value of water has led to wasteful and environmentally damaging uses of the resource“ (ICWE, 1992: Principle No. 4). Furthermore it was recommended water should be managed as an “economic good“ and this would be an “important way of achieving efficient and equitable use, and of encouraging conservation and protection of water resources“, but it had to be “recognized first the basic right of all human beings to have access to clean water and sanitation at an affordable price“ (ibid.).

“Many paths to sustainable development are linked to water, but the decisions that determine how water resources are used or abused are largely driven by economic sector.“ (UNESCO, 2015b: 98). The proponents of privatization believe that private companies are more efficient than state monopolies and the politically accountable. In addition, to save taxpayers money there is the hope for improvements in the quality of the water supply. Brabeck-Letmathe, former CEO of Nestlé, was one of the first proponents who raised the question that if water was to be seen as a food product, a commodity; then it needs a market value. In his opinion this policy would protect water against mismanagement in weak and crisis ridden states (Wagenhofer, 2005: 1:28:31hrs; Schnell, 2012). Achtnicht (2004) points out in his documentary Die Geldquelle - Das Milliardengeschäft mit Wasser (The source of funds - The billion dollar business with Water) the complexity of water supplies' privatization. He notes that through privatization, governments can become extremely dependant and become vulnerable to blackmail, because they cannot simply turn off the taps if the private company in charge goes bankrupt (35:40min).

Empirically, a higher efficiency by private water supplies could not be detected in comparison with local institutions, at least for developed countries (Kirkpatrick, Parker & Zang, 2006: 143ff). Hausmann & Künnemann (2006: 8) point out the fact, that “[l]iberalisation and privatisation has, in many countries, effectively reduce the state‘s ability to protect and fulfil economic, social and cultural rights.“

4.1. Water as a Commodity

The discussion of water as a commodity addresses the eco-principle but also demands a political positioning within the economy. Jim Olsen, attorney for Environmental Law, points out that since time immemorial water was considered as a common good and not as the property of anyone; which is what the common sense alone is telling us (cited in Salina, 2009: 1:01:15hrs). His philosophy about water as a commodity is that things which are volatile, such as water, cannot be possessed, as opposed to material solids, such as a ballpoint pen (ibid.: 1:01:47hrs). However, an elementary difference to other commodities is, that the raw material water, such as oxygen is a necessary element for the survival of every creature. It is also a basic element in the majority of agricultural, industrial, and energy generating processes.

Beside the discussion of assets and drawbacks about privatization; bottled water has become an increasing part of the beverage industry, not only in the West but all over the world. In the last ten years, consumption has doubled (Tvedt, 2013: 157). UNICEF & WHO (2008: 31) refer to surveys that bottled water “is a significant source of drinking in some developing countries“. In a few parts of the world bottled water is becoming the main drinking water source. In countries like India, Pakistan and Japan bottled water is going to be the norm for “homes and on-the-move hydration“ (Rani, et al., 2012: 2).

UNICEF and WHO (2008) have listed such countries where more than five percent of the urban population uses bottled water as their main drinking source. The data originates from Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS), Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS), Encuesta Nacional de Salud Materno Infantil (ENSMI) and Pan Arab Project for Family Health (PAPFAM) surveys, 2002-2005:

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Table 5: Countries in which more than 5 per cent of the urban population uses bottled water as their main drinking water source (UNICEF & World Health Organization, 2008: 31)

* All or part of the water is sold from refilling stations that fill bottles with tap water

* * Data for Ghana only describe use of ‘sachet water‘ (300 millilitre plastic bags of water)

Various multinational food and drinking companies such as Nestlé, Coca-Cola Company, PepsiCo, and Danone started with advertising campaigns to exploit bottled water as a healthier option than local tap water in developing countries and as a lifestyle product in the western world (because of the mineral ingredients). Highlighting the industry Baskind (2010) notes that “bottled water has become a fashion accessory“ and “an amazing new fad“ because of “one of the most successful advertising hypes in recent history“. Gleick (2010: 110) lists some typical slogans from bottled water campaigns to invoke attributes such as “youth, health, beauty, romance, status, image, (...) sex and fear“: Dasani (Can‘t live without it.), Fiji (Far from pollution. Far from acid rain. Far from industrial waste.), Poland Spring (Sip smarter. Live Longer.), Evian (Your natural source of youth), Contrex (My slimness partner), Kinley (Trust in every drop), Rocchetta (Cleansed inside, beautiful outside), Infinity Water (The oldest way to stay young), Aqua Castello (Pleasure within you). “Drinking bottled water has become a lifestyle choice“ stated by Parsons & Maclaren (2009: 206).

Not only the bottled water itself, but developments such as water bars (like in the Paris department store Colette) express the trend of bottled water as a lifestyle product. What had been in former days a wine tavern for epicures, is now a location with more than 60 globally-sourced bottled waters for water gourmets (Colette, 2014). Exotic and expensive bottle waters are also available on world wide web. The website `Bottled Water of the World´ lists more than 100 bottled waters of the world and compares dozen of common brands in balance, mineralogy, orientation, virginality, and vintage (Fine Waters, n.d.). Bottled water has now become more expensive than crude oil and can cost up to 5,000 times more than ordinary tap water. Mineral water sold in a restaurant exceeds the price of tap water by more than one thousand times (Tvedt, 2013: 157). Some of the most expensive bottled waters are Aqua di Cristallo and Tributo a Modigliani. The costumer gets 750ml of French or Fijian water in a 24 carat designer bottle within a leather case (Said, 2013).

Whether rich and poor, all require the same amount of water in order to survive (Tvedt, 2013: 71). However, water is suitable as a demonstrator of social success or failure. Paradoxically, just the absurd price differences make the reason for the market success of bottled water (ibid.: 158).

4.2. Development of the Bottled Water Market

A person can only drink a certain level of soda drinks till he recognises how unhealthy it is. This development was noticed by giant soft drink companies in the 1970s. They worried consumers would turn back to tap water and therefore started to implement bottled water. To sell its product the bottled water industry started to manufacture demand with big advertising campaigns by scaring, seducing, and misleading the consumer (Leonard, 2010: 2:16min).

The strategy seems to be successful. In the last 15 years the global bottled water market is described and called “remarkable“ (Rani et al., 2012: 1), because of its continuing annual growth in sales and revenues all over the world. The global average of consumption differs because of different aspects. The success of bottled water has to do with taste, convenience, poor tap water quality, safety concerns, health concerns, and as substitute for sugar drinks. “Calories, 0; Fat, 0; Cholesterol, 0; Sodium, 0; Total Carbohydrate, 0; Protein, 0. Typical information on a bottled water label in the US.“ (Gleick, 2010: 51). More lifestyle aspects in the western world, more health concerns and alternative solution for water mismanagement for a large number of regions in the southern hemisphere. Opponents' arguments about the environmental, industrial, transportation and energy impact, in context of the market's development do not seem to be heard (Hall & Lobina, 2012: 5ff).

The World Water Council (WWC) in addition to the Global Water Partnership (GWP) and the World Commission on Water (WCW) are the driving forces which consider the privatization and public-private partnership as the only solution to the global water crisis. Barlow and Clark (2002: 157ff) do not believe in the alleged neutrality of the council, rather a smoke screen for the water lobby. One example: from 2005 until 2012, Loic Fauchov, a Marseille water entrepreneur, took over the presidency of the WWC, which encouraged the criticism of this organisation. Every well-known water company is involved. In this case Société des Eaux de Marseille was a French water distribution company in Marseille and sixty districts throughout Provence. It is a subsidiary of Veolia, one of the multinational corporations in water management.

In the opinion of Michael Camdessus (Salina, 2009: 20:23min) it is a huge challenge to reduce the number of people who do not have access to water. This is why there should be attention drawn to the expertise of the private sector, which does or will provide water. Barlow counters that clean water cannot be provided to a needy society, if profit for the investors has to be delivered at the same time (cited in Salina, 2009: 22:25min).

On the other hand, according to Fortune Magazine (cited in Shiva, 2002: 88), water is a highly profitable business for investors. With the beginning of the new millennium the World Bank estimated the potential for the water-market at one trillion US Dollars (Barlow, cited in Shiva, 2002: 88). In 2010 the value of the global water market was estimated at approx. 66 billion Euros (87 billion US Dollar) (Rani et al, 2012: 1). On the other side, this trend has an impact for costumers. The bills to pay for water supplies in many regions of the world, even in first world countries, have increased, cited from Miles Jr. (2008: 00:48min): “Water is like liquid gold now.“

4.3. Bottled Water

4.3.1. Facts

In 1998/1999 the multinational food and drink companies launched their first multi-site bottled waters. Hans-Dieter Karlscheuer of Perrier-Vittel S.A. once stated: “We can‘t change the world. We can only try to improve it a little“ (cited in Rosemann, 2005: 2). In 1998 Nestlé's improvement was Pure Life, currently the flagship of Nestlé's bottled water brands (ibid.; Nestlé Waters, 2013: 18). One year later Dasani, a bottle water brand of Coca-Cola Company, was launched and it became a “huge success“ (Parsons & MacIaran, 2009: 207). “Bottled water has become so ubiquitous, that it's hard to remember that it hasn't always been there.“ (Gleick, 2010: 6). Currently the brand giants of the global water market are

- Danone (Evian, Volvic),
- Nestlé (Pure Life, Poland Spring, Perrier, San Pellegrino),
- Coca-Cola (Bonaqua, Kinley, Dasani, Ceil), and
- PepsiCo (Aquafina, Aqua Minerlae, Aqua Diamant).

Today common bottle sizes from 50 centilitre up to one litre for “on the go products“ are sold. For households containers with 5 litres and above are available. Rani (et al., 2013: 1) calls it a wide variety of “consumption occasions“ at the market.

In 2010 the annual per capita consumption had been for the different regions in the world (Rani et al., 2013: 1f):

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Although no precise figures are mentioned for Asia / Australasia, it is “the region (...) second only to Western Europe in terms of volume consumption“ (ibid.: 2). Across the globe it is the “fastest growth region“, in particular in countries with large populations like India and Pakistan (ibid.). In the United States of America (USA) in 2008 alone were consumed 31 billion litre bottles of water worth of 10.8 billion US Dollars, the biggest bottled water market in the world (Salina, 2009: 35:26min).

As an example of the bottle water‘s global player, the top 10 brand at the US market, as the biggest worldwide, are shown in table 6 (Statista, 2015).

Table 6: Sales of the leading 10 bottled still water brands of the United States in 2014 (in billion U.S. Dollars)

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Table 7: Sales of the leading 10 bottled still water brands of the United States in 2014 - pooled in Companies (in billion U.S. Dollars) = in total 7.23 bill. $

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Table 8: The leading ten most valuable bottled water brands worldwide based on brand value in 2010 (in million U.S. Dollars)

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Table 9: The leading ten most valuable bottled water brands worldwide based on brand value in 2010 - pooled in Companies (in billion U.S. Dollars) = in total 5.238 bill. $

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

To explain the marketing strategy: a result of an example for a series of experiments in a restaurant in the USA, there has been no difference between ostensible brand water and tap water by tasting out (Salina, 2009: 35:37min). Nowadays very often the name of a bottled water is a brand and not anymore the identification of a specific source of supply. Increasingly bottled water is tap water, water from municipal water suppliers, an important information for consumers, but avoided by bottled water companies. For example, alleged mountain water came from municipal water systems and alleged glacier water was normal tap water. The lack of transparency makes it difficult “to know the specific source of the water in the bottle (...) or if it is of a mix of sources“ (Gleick, 2010: 56). Erik D. Olson, Attorney for Environmental Law (cited in Salina, 2009, 37:00min) states that bottled water is not better in quality than tap water. The US regulatory authority could not even tell what ingredients are really included in bottled water. Several bottled water labels remain misleading to consumers are listed in Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) study (Olson, 1999: c. 5).

4.3.2 Critique

There are fundamental doubts on business practices of the bottled water industry. Annie Leonard (2010), Executive Director of Greenpeace USA has pointed out three of them. Thus multinational enterprises scare, seduce, and mislead bottle water consumers.


In order to implement their products the bottled water industry tried to frighten the public by saying that tap water is not clean or healthy (ibid.: 03:09min). In some cases this statement is true. Sometimes bottled water is cleaner than tap water, sometimes not (ibid.: 01:21min). As one example for denigrating tap water with an “aggressive marketing strategy“ was Nestlé using awareness seminars about bad water conditions to launch their new bottled water Pure Life in Pakistan (Rosemann, 2005: 22). The attitude towards such campaigns is highlighted by top water executive of the Quaker Oats Company's US beverage division, Mrs. Susan Wellington (cited in Gleick, 2010: 1), who said: “When we're done, tap water will be relegated to showers and washing dishes“. Furthermore PepsiCo's vice president once made a public statement that “the biggest enemy [for the bottled water companies] is tap water“ (Leonard, 2010: 05:49min).


The advertising campaigns of the bottled water companies call bottled water a healthier option and treat this product as a lifestyle commodity, as has already described in this paper under c. 4.1. The companies seduce the consumers with pictures of snowy mountains and pristine natural environments without telling that about one third of US bottle waters are filled with tap water like PepsiCo‘s ‘Aquafina‘ and Coca-Cola Company‘s ‘Dasani‘. On the other hand “bottled water is typically associated with clean, natural mountain springs“ (Carroll, 2009: 11). Another example for seducing consumers is a statement by Nestlé that “bottled water is the most environmentally responsible consumer product in the world“ (Leonard, 2010: 03:09min). This kind of statement misleads the consumers and a view on most bottled water lifecycles cannot confirm this.


In the USA more than half a billion bottles of water are sold every week. This is enough “to cycle the globe [with bottles] five times“ (ibid.: 02:00min). “Bottled water produces up to 1.5 million tons of plastic waste per year.“ (Baskind, 2010: Pt. 3). At the beginning of bottled water lifecycle oil is needed to produce the bottles, energy is needed for the production process and much more for shipping and the distribution. According to Food and Water Watch 47 million gallons (178 million litres) of oil per year are needed for the production (ibid.). The UN Water (2006: 7) points out that water provided by tanker lorries usually costs more than running water, which can be taken by the well of residents of the same city. The lifecycle ends with disposal, after drinking a bottle of water “in two minutes“ (Leonard, 2010: 04:20min). Leonard claims that 80 percent of the bottles in the USA land up in landfills or get burned in waste incinerators releasing toxic pollution (ibid.: 04:00min). The rest of the bottles do not get totally recycled, most of them get down-graded to lower end products in developing countries. Finally they get disposed of. Leonard found mountains of used bottles in India which originated from California (ibid.: 04:56min).

The majority of bottled waters are sold in bottles made of polyethylene terephthalate (PET). Per year the USA uses about 17 million barrels of oil for its bottle production and energy that could fuel one million cars (Leonard, 2010: 04:10min; bluenow, 2012). Even though “PET plastic is considered more stable and less prone to leaching than other forms of plastic“. PET containers are not meant to be used as refill and reuse opportunities (RPN, n.d.). Masterson (cited in ibid.) refers on studies suggesting the possibility of human carcinogen, because of repeated PET containers use. An endocrine-disrupting compound, di (2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) may be released and be harmful. Glass bottles as an alternative are not used, unless for exclusive water brands. For commercial use glass bottles are too heavy and break to easily. The second alternative, aluminium cans, “impart a slight taste to their contents“ (Gleick, 2010: 90). Hence PET bottles are used which have an impact on environmental degradation. Each year 800,000 tons of plastic are needed for bottled water in the USA. Four out of five of these bottles do not find their way into the recycling cycle (Schnell, 2012: 1:14:00hrs). Globally 1.5 million tons of PET bottles end up as waste per year. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a results of this kind of pollution. After breaking into tinier and tinier peaces a plastic island, like a cloudy soup, has been formed in the Pacific Ocean, two times the size of Texas and it moves in a clockwise direction between California and Japan. Dangerous and harmful to aquatic life and thus ultimately harmful to humans (bluenow, 2012; National Geographic, n.d.).

Nevertheless, to a certain point the company‘s arguments are right, because fresh, clean, and safe water is not available everywhere. Brabeck-Letmathe (cited in Schnell, 2012: 1:08:45hrs) argues that 96 percent of water in the third world are managed by governments and it does not work, because investments are missing. In many places in the world public water is polluted. Beside multinational companies an illegal profession of water distributors or water mafia has established itself in such regions. They fill the gap of mismanagement and incapacity of governments to provide access to safe water supplies. The water distributors are filling cans with tap water and selling them for much more money than the price of conventional tap water of the region. The distributor‘s prices are still cheaper than private water suppliers of bottled water (Salina, 2009: 26:56min). For millions of people in illegally built slums the queues at the water pumps are too long, so they prefer to buy their water from the so-called water mafia. Like in New Delhi a single daily consumption of water sometimes cost as much as a citizen of the middle class has to pay for a whole month (Tvedt, 2013: 117). In Barlow‘s opinion (cited in Schnell, 2012: 1:09:55hrs) investments should be given to agencies in developing countries to build up water infrastructure without profit in mind.

Baskind (2010: Pt. 5) warns against the risks of the multinational corporations “stepping in to purchase groundwater and distribution rights wherever they can, and the bottled water industry is an important component in their drive to commoditise what many feel is a basic human right: the access to safe and affordable water.“ Environmental, social and economic impact of corporations business behaviour and practices are defined by the European Commission (2011: 6) CSR in 2011 as “the responsibility of enterprises for their impacts on society“ including social, environmental, ethical and consumer concerns and including the principle of human rights into their business operations.

However, the contradictory phenomenon of standard-setting is evident when states deal with one-another. Kümmel (cited in Gareis & Varwick, 2014: 182) points out that developed countries, on the one hand, grant development aid in order to fulfil human rights claims, but on the other hand, economically and politically important countries often overlook serious human rights violations.

Viva con Agua (VcA) represents a new kind of bottle water business practice. Founded in 2010, VcA tries to instil a new social philosophy to the bottled water market in Germany. The company's idea is to establish and to sell their bottled waters, but they do not want to get people away from the tap (VcA, n.d. - a). Whoever needs to buy bottled water can buy this company's products, because they donate (depending on bottle size) between five and eleven Cents towards global water projects. VcA‘s CEO Benjamin Adrion (cited in Schuster, 2015: 66), explains about their huge market share, but at the same time they hope for a shrinking market. The second social idea behind this bottled water strategy is to encourage consumers to refill their empty VcA bottles with tap water (ibid.: 67). By 2014 VcA had collected 150,000 Euros by selling bottled waters and donated it for water projects in, for example, India. The aim is collect one million Euros by 2018 (VcA, n.d. - b). With this innovative approach VcA hopes to improve the human right to water in a sustainable way.

5. The Human Right to Water

5.1 Introduction

Bolivia has filed a petition to declare water a fundamental human right, co-sponsored by 38 other states with a majority of developing countries of the southern hemisphere (Solón, 2010). The aim to define water as a human right was to raise awareness that even the poorest are reliant on clean drinking water and sanitation because it is “indispensable for leading a life in human dignity“ (United Nations, 2002: Pt. 1.1.) and inextricably related to the right to the highest attainable standard of health (Ladwig, 2009, United Nations, 2002: Pt. 1.3.). During the UN General Assembly Jul 28, 2010, 122 Member States adopted the ‘Human Right to Water and Sanitation‘ while 41 countries abstained (UN General Assembly, 2010). Before the vote a number of member states of the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) tried to avoid the vote and “considered opposition“ (Hall & Lobina, 2012: 18). In the end no one voted against implementation.

Over the last few decades, international conferences, forums, declarations, comments, and resolutions have dealt with the topic of water in different ways:

(i) as a basic need (ii) as a right. One approach is that the ‘need‘ must be satisfied. The other approach is, the definition of water as a human right, which offers the advantage that it must be respected, protected and realised (Maurer, n.d.).

What has been “hailed by many as a historic achievement“ (Deen, 2012); the new human right to water had already held a similar importance in other historic periods. Even 1,400 years ago water had been known in the Islamic sphere of influence as a human right. According to the original teaching of the Sharia, the Islamic law, water cannot be bought and sold for profit, except the channels it flows through and the right to use it (Lambton, cited in Saleh, 2004: 32f).

5.2. Water on the International Agenda

In 1966 the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) was adopted by the UN General Assembly and entered into force in 1976 (United Nations, 1966: 1). The issue of water was not directly mentioned in this treaty, but is contained in it the rights for: (i) An adequate standard of living (article 11), which includes adequate food. (ii) The highest attainable standard of health (article 12). At the conference in Mar del Plata / Argentina in 1977 the UN addressed the topic of water and human rights for the first time. That “all peoples, whatever their stage of development and social and economic conditions, have the right to have access to drinking water in quantities and of a quality equal to their basic needs“ was established as a result under the resolutions point (Pt.) II (a) (United Nations, 1977). Two years later the right of access to water for women as one condition of adequate living was specifically mentioned in the article 14(2) (h) of the annex of the res. 34/180, in the ‘Convention of the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination of Women‘ (UN General Assembly, 1979). In 1980 the international decade of Water and Sanitation (1981 - 1990) was proclaimed, with the goal that in 1990 all human beings have facilitated access to clean water (UN General Assembly, 1980). Resolution 44/25 followed in the year 1989 with the ‘Convention of the Rights of the Child‘ with the request of the member states in article 24(2)(c) - annex, to provide clean drinking water to combat disease and the malnutrition of children within the limits of their healthcare (UN General Assembly, 1989). In 1992, the Agenda 21 of the UN Conference of Environment and Development at Rio, confirmed once again within chapter 18 ‘the commonly agreed premise‘ from the resolution of Mar del Plata (United Nations, 1992). A further outcome from the conference in Rio was the implementation of a World-Water-Day, by the UN starting in 1993 (res. 47/193), always on the 22nd of March of each year dedicated to a certain theme (UN General Assembly, 1992). In 1996, as the first country in this world South Africa declared the access to water as a human right in its constitution (Tveldt, 2013: 74). An amount of water for personal needs is still free of charge in South Africa. Between the years of 1994 to 2002 the access of clean water was affirmed on different international conferences. Access to clean water and the importance of development and adequate living conditions, was demanded at the UN International Conference on Population and Development 1994, 1999 the res. 54/175 ‘The right to Development‘, and the World Summit of Sustainable Development in 2002. The 1990 goal of the international Decade of Water and Sanitation - for facilitated access to water for all humans, was not reached. A new attempt at achieving this goal is the MDG recorded at the millennium meeting in 2000. Target 7c deals with the goal to “halve by 2015, the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe water and basic sanitation“ (United Nations, n.d. - b).

At the conference in Johannesburg in 2002, the World Summit on Sustainable Development, the leading politicians of the world agreed, that the issue of water should be a main topic on the political-ecological agenda (Tveldt, 2013:75). As one of the main provisions General Comment No. 15 was published in 2002. It explains the aim and terminology of the Right to Water by stating that the “right to water is also inextricably related to the right to the highest attainable standard of health and the rights to adequate housing and adequate food“ (United Nations, 2002: 2). In 2003 the General Assembly proclaimed with res. A/RES/58/217 the period of 2005 - 2015 as the International Decade for Action ‘Water to Life‘, starting on March 22nd 2005. “The primary goal of the ‘Water for Life‘ decade is to promote efforts to fulfil international commitments made on water and water-related issues by 2015.“ (United Nations, n.d. - c). Article 28 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (A/61/611) defines the right to an adequate standard of living for these people as well. Pt. 2 (a) of the convention states that equal access to clean water services has to be ensured (UN General Assembly, 2006: art. 28). A year later, in 2007 a study was presented by the former High Commissioner for Human Rights on the scope and content of the relevant human rights obligations related to equitable access to safe drinking water and sanitation under the international human rights instruments. The former High Commissioner expressed in the study her belief that “it is now time to consider access to safe drinking water and sanitation as a human right, defined as the right to equal and non-discriminatory access to a sufficient amount of safe drinking water for personal and domestic uses (...) to sustain life and health” (United Nations Human Rights, n.d.).

5.3. The Human Right to Water

5.3.1. Human Rights in General

“Every human being, in every society, is entitled to have basic autonomy and freedoms respected and basic needs satisfied“ is the explanation of human rights by Henking (cited in Salman & Mclnerney-Lankford, 2004: 1f). Gareis & Warwick (2014: 179) believe that for a dignified life, each person has regardless of their sex, age, religion, ethnic, national and local or social background innate and unalienable rights, which demand a special protection.

Since the Magna Carta in 1215 the development of the world has led to the codification of more and more human and citizens rights. In this context Gosepath and Lohmann (as cited in Gareis & Warwick, ibid.) point out the tradition of a long history of ideas of a close relationship between the respect for human dignity and peace in the world. After World War II the newly created world organisation, the United Nations, adopted at its conference in San Francisco the charter of the UN, to promote and to encourage “respect for human rights and for fundamental freedom for all without distinction” as it is written in article 1 number 3, with the aim of the preamble “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war” (United Nations, 1945). As a result a comprehensive understanding of peace terms and causes of wars, which were taken as a basis from which followed the respect of human rights, the creation of justice and the improvement of economic and social living conditions of the nations (Wolf, 2010: 16). Human rights in a modern term were recorded in res. 217 by the UN with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in 1948. During the last 70 years human rights were expanded again and again. Meanwhile it is termed as three generations of human rights (Viljoen, 2009; Gareis & Varwick, 2014: 181). The first generation included the classical, liberal protective rights over national rights such as social arbitrariness and violence, which are recorded in the UDHR, e.g. ‘right of life‘ (art. 3), ‘freedom of opinion‘ (art. 19), ‘freedom from torture‘ (art. 5). With the second generation, individual entitlements and participator rights are embedded within the social, economical and cultural segment, which result from the ICESCR, e.g. ‘right of social insurance‘ (art. 9, 12), ‘right to an adequate standard of living‘ (art. 11), ‘the highest attainable standards of mental and physical health‘ (art. 12). The third generation of human rights are dealing with collective rights, e.g. ‘right of peace‘ (res. 60/163 – United Nations, 2005), ‘right of development‘ (res. 41/128 – UN General Assembly, 1986), ‘right of secure environment‘ (‘Stockholm Declaration‘ – United Nations, 1972). Cornescu (2009: 6) points out the special significance of environmental rights, which are understood as the “right of future generations“.

These collective goals of the third generation are especially important to the countries of the southern hemisphere. They demand these rights as prerequisite for processing civic rights (Howard, 1997: 99). Development, in particular, is still one of the controversial rights. Res. 41/128 gives humans and nations the inalienable human right of economical, social, cultural, and political development, through these all fundamental freedoms can evolve. Krennerich (2005: 5) requires therefore a developmental process in which all human rights are implemented jointly in consecutive steps.

Freedom, equality, justice for a life of dignity and the opportunity to realise one‘s full potential are the core values of human rights. They are universal, interrelated, indivisible and inalienable. For state actors human rights imply rights and obligations. The Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights (OHCHR) clarifies and defines these rights and obligations:

“States assume obligations and duties under international law to respect, to protect and to fulfil human rights. The obligation to respect means that States must refrain from interfering with or curtailing the enjoyment of human rights. The obligation to protect requires States to protect individuals and groups against human rights abuses. The obligation to fulfil means that States must take positive action to facilitate the enjoyment of basic human rights.“ (United Nations, n.d. - e).

To respect the human rights of others is an obligation for everyone as an individual while entitling him to his own human rights (ibid.). Rosemann (2005: 12) writes that by “recognizing a basic need as a human right, exercised political power becomes legitimized if its objective is the fulfilment of human rights, and economic power is legitimized as long as it does not obstruct the individual or collective satisfaction of human rights.“

5.3.2. The Human Right to Water

Access to water as a human right was adopted officially by the General Assembly in July 2010, comprising the right to an adequate standard of living and the right to the highest attainable standard of health. Bakker (2007: 437) stated that “[t]he argument for creating a human right to water generally rests on two justifications: the non-substitutability of drinking water (‘essential for life‘), and the fact that many other human rights, which are explicitly recognised in the UN Conventions are predicated upon an (assumed) availability of water (e.g. ‘the right to food‘).“

Like any human right, the three main state obligations apply as well as to the right to water and sanitation: the obligation to respect, to protect and to fulfil a human right (United Nations, 2002: No. 20). Therefore it is a main responsibility placed upon governments to ensure every individual the enjoyment of the human right with sufficient, safe, accessible, and affordable water, without discrimination. A role model might be the case of South Africa: as the first state in the world South Africa declared the access to water as a human right in its constitution in 1996 (Tvedt, 2013: 74). In 2001, with its Water Service Act from 1997 and the regulations relating to compulsory national standards and measures to conserve water (No. 22355), South Africa implemented a minimum standard for basic water supply services including a minimum quantity of potable water for the population. While WHO defines an average quantity of 20 l/c/d of water as a basic level (Howard & Bartram, 2003: Table S1, p. 22), South Africa has promised by law to provide 25 litres per day per person or 6,000 litres of water per households per month for free. At least available for the poorest in the society (Department of Water Affairs and Forestry, 2001: No. 3, 2002: 3f). For all the water over this amount, controlled by meters or other devices, water has to be paid in graded tariffs, depending on the amount of water used. This system should create justice between users with a high amount and users with a lower amount of water. More states followed and implemented the right to water in its constitutions, examples are Uruguay in 2004, Kenya in 2005 and Bolivia in 2009.

The perception that some human rights could be fulfilled free of charge and without any other responsibilities, is misleading. It lacks the shortened understanding of corresponding duties. Shue (1980: 60) distinguishes between three of these duties for the “fulfilment of a basic right to subsistence“, which also applies to the right to water: duties to avoid deprivation, duties to protect from deprivation, and duties to aid the deprived. Pretending water is a human right will not alleviate the water crisis, is claimed by Okonski (2009: 73). She raised several questions regarding the impact of such a human right and the access to clean drinking water for people. “Does every human have a right to consume as much water as he wishes, regardless of time and place? If not, to what quantity of water does each individual have a right? Does it vary by circumstance? Whose responsibility is it to provide the water for the user? At whose expense? How are disputes between different users of water to be settled? How do we encourage more efficient use of water?“ (ibid.: 61). None of these questions have been adequately addressed and answered. Probably the human right creator's intention had been not to go into too much detail but to leave it upon states how the right is implemented since they made a plea in the resolution by:

“[calling] upon States and international organizations to provide financial resources, capacity-building and technology transfer, through international assistance and cooperation, in particular to developing countries, in order to scale up efforts to provide safe, clean, accessible and affordable drinking water and sanitation for all.” (UN General Assembly, 2010: no. 2).

The benefit of the right to water and sanitation as a human right is pointed out by Rosemann (2005: 12) as “[enlarging] the political and economic debates about needs to an international discourse of standard setting and national and international implementation, as well as monitoring“. In McGraw‘s (2011: 202) opinion the “ICESCR and its General Comments are the strongest international legal sources for the human right to water to which a state may have recourse“. One main fact about the human right to water has to be emphasised and that is that this right does not possess formal legal enforceability.

For the UN good water governance and management “can go a long way towards achieving equitable access objectives“ regarding the realisation of the right to water: transparency, access to information, participation of stakeholders in decision-making, incentives for operators to improve efficiencies and keep costs down, and accountability and redress mechanisms effectively accessible to all people (United Nations, 2013: 6). Accountability, in a human rights context, encompasses monitoring mechanisms and remedies.

“Service providers and public officials must be accountable to the user. Promoting accountability includes developing effective monitoring bodies and processes; devising sound indicators for assessing progress, affordability, and the fair and equitable distribution of water and sanitation resources according to needs. It also includes creating reliable, accessible and effective judicial and administrative complaints mechanisms that allow individuals to air and satisfactorily redress their grievances.“ (United Nations, 2013: 14).

The UN points out common misconceptions about the human right to water and sanitation, such as:

(i) The right does not entitle people to free water. However the services of water and sanitation need to be affordable for all and people are expected to contribute financially or otherwise to the extent that they can do so
(ii) The right does not allow the unlimited use of water. It entitles everyone to sufficient water for personal and domestic use and is to be realised in a sustainable manner for present and future generations
(iii) The right does not entitle everyone to a household connection. For example water facilities need to be within, or in the immediate vicinity of the household, and can comprise facilities such as wells
(iv) The right to water does not entitle people to water resources in other countries, because people cannot claim water from other countries. However, international customary law on transboundary watercourses stipulates that such watercourses should be shared in an equitable and reasonable manner, with priority given to vital human needs
(v) A country does not violate the right if not all its people have access to water and sanitation. The right requires that the State takes steps to the maximum of available resources to progressively realise the right (United Nations, n.d. - d: 7).

As mentioned in Pt. (i), water needs to be affordable for all. Affordability is defined as sanitation and water facilities and services that are accessible at a price that everybody can pay. Having to pay for services, including construction, cleaning, emptying and maintenance for facilities, as well as treatment and disposal of faecal matter, must not affect people's capacity to acquire other basic goods and services, including food, housing, health and education guaranteed by other human rights. Accordingly, affordability can be estimated by considering (a) the financial means that have to be reserved for fulfilling other basic needs and purposes and (b) the means available to pay for water and sanitation services, even for the poorest (United Nations, 2013: 14, n.d. - d: 6). According to the UN, the “cost of water and sanitation services should not exceed 5 percent of household income“ (United Nations, n.d. - d: 6). In this regard the UN recalls that “almost two in three people lacking access to clean water survive on less than $ 2 a day, with one in three living on less than $ 1 a day“ (United Nations Development Program, 2006: 7).

As to Pt. (ii), the amount of water that was determined by WHO as sufficient water is set by 20 l/c/d. See also Pt. 3.1.2: 10. With regard to Pt. (v), it is important that this aspect is also seen in connection with Goal No. 7c of the MDG's, where states have made a pledge to halve the number of people without sustainable access to safe water.

5.3.3. The Human Right to Water - Challenges

As mentioned before, it is the states that have the primary responsibility concerning the human rights obligations and therefore also to ensure the human right to water. However, there are certain factor that make it difficult for the state to fulfil its obligation to its population. Mainly due to water scarcity and conflicts over water issues, arising from economic and political factors and the conflicts between different users of water - households, agriculture, and businesses. Some of the problematic aspects are pointed out by Hall & Lobina (2012: 5ff), for example:


Globally agriculture is the greatest user of water resources. In the southern hemisphere agriculture uses more than 80 percent of water. Oxfam and Patterson are cited in Hall & Lobina (2012: 5) with the statement that since 2001 in developing countries 227 million hectares of land have been sold or leased mostly to international investors for biofuels (about 60 percent), for food production (about 20 percent), and the rest for mining, tourism, industry and forestry. This policy is supported by the World Bank. They are arguing that the land leases are a “market mechanism of modernisation and development bringing land into higher value use, transferring ownership from less to more efficient producer, and enabling more food to be produced for growing populations“ (Hall & Lobina, 2012: 6). To ensure the profitability of such an investment the access to water is included in those contracts. Therefore in deals like this water is a key factor. An increase in biofuel production is expected over the next years. One main result will be a rising demand for water recourses. Tidwell, Sun & Malczynski (cited in Hall & Lobina, 2012: 7) have calculated a need of “twice as much extra water as municipal water supply“ for the USA and biofuel production in the next 20 years. Existing water rights are not seen to provide a deterrent to such use of water. A further issue of agriculture is ‘virtual water‘, defined by Hoekstra, Chapagain, Aldaya & Mekonnen (2011: 46) as water volume embodied in a product. It is a way to identify the water rate per product and the effect of trade, especially for food. To get an idea how much water it consumes per unit of consumption, Hoekstra & Chapagain (2006: 7) have listed some examples of virtual water content: one tomato (70 grammes) = 13 litres of water in average, one glass of beer (250 millilitres) = 75 litres, and one hamburger (150 grammes) = 2,400 litres. Virtual water is not able to “‘trickle down‘ from water rich countries to water poor countries, because economically poor countries with low water resources cannot afford to import water this way“ (Hall & Lobina, 2011: 7).

Mining and oil

On the one side mines in water scarce regions are the greatest water user for drilling and washing the minerals, and for the worker´s households. On the other side, mining processes pollute water as a result of adding chemicals like cyanide in gold mining or arsenic in uranium mining and as a result of waste production. Andrews et al. (cited in Hall & Lobina,2012: 7), mentions that the extraction of oil and gas from shale and sand by fracking uses on average 10,000 cubic metres of water in each scheme. Afterwards the water is lost underground, and may contaminate groundwater, or return as wastewater to the surface with chemicals that may contaminate land and surface water.

Drinks companies

Producers of soft drinks and beer use ingredients such as sugar, flavouring and alcohol and need a lot of water - as the major ingredient with more than 90 percent of beverage content. The major impact of bottled water production is the use of “2,000 times as much energy as tap water (...) less stringent safety and quality checks than piped water (...) generates large volumes of waste in the form of plastic bottles“ (Hall & Lobina, 2012: 9). The main fact being that an increasing number of brands are bottled from municipal water supplies. The content - nothing else than tap water´ (Gleick, 2010: 56).

5.4. The Human Right to Water and Responsibilities

5.4.1. Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights

During the last decades private companies have become more and more involved in operating drinking water sources, providing access to drinking water or distributing clear drinking water. Regarding this fact; what about the responsibility of the private sector in the case of the human right to water? Krennerich & Gandenberger (2005: 7) point out that demands to adhere to human rights have increased - not only towards states, but also towards international finance organisations, like the World Bank and the IMF and multinational businesses. In 2000 the UN Global Compact's (UNGC) ‘Ten Principles‘ were introduced, calling on business to respect and support human rights and to avoid complicity in human rights abuse (UNGC, 2013). General Comment No. 15 states that in the context of the right to water the obligation to protect requires state parties to prevent third parties, such as corporations, “from interfering in any way with the enjoyment of the right to water“ (United Nations, 2002: par. 23). Another obligation is to adopt the necessary and effective legislative and other measures to restrain corporations from denying equal access to adequate water and polluting and inequitably extraction from other water resources (ibid.). “State parties should take appropriate steps to ensure that the private business sector and civil society are aware of, and consider the importance of, the right to water in pursuing their activities.“ (ibid.: par. 49). Therefore states are required to take appropriate steps to prevent, investigate, punish and redress human rights abuses through “effective policies, legislation, regulations and adjudication“ (United Nations, 2011: 3).

After the implementation of the human right to water in 2010, the UN published the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (United Nations, 2011). Part I points out the State duty to protect human rights. Within their territory, States must protect human rights, but they are not “per se responsible for human rights abuse by private actors“(United Nations, 2011: Pt. 1). States have to take “appropriate steps to prevent, investigate, punish and redress such abuses through effective policies, legislation, regulations and adjudication“ (ibid.). Point 2 elaborates that “States should set out clearly the expectations that all business enterprises domiciled in their territory and/or jurisdiction should respect human rights throughout their operations.“ Points 3 to 10 deals with operational principles to the first two points mentioned. Unlike General Comment No. 15, part II of the Guiding Principles is addressed directly to business enterprises and their corporate responsibility to respect human rights by foundational and operational principles. For companies it is simply not enough just to follow the law in countries they operate. Concrete steps have to be improved, because companies are responsible for all human rights. Point 11 states: “Business enterprises should respect human rights.“ It highlights the responsibility to respect human rights as a “global standard of expected conduct for all business enterprises wherever they operate“ (ibid.: Pt. 11). That human rights are respected by the enterprises has to be known and shown with certain policies and processes and through a statement of policy for its commitment to meet its responsibility. This statement of commitment should be publicly available (ibid.: Pt. 15, 16). “The responsibility of business enterprises to respect human rights applies to all enterprises regardless of their size, sector, operational context, ownership and structure.“ (ibid.: Pt. 14). Proportional to a enterprise's size should be its responsibility to respect human rights, says the commentary to Pt. 14. To “seek to prevent or mitigate adverse human rights impacts that are directly linked to their [the company's] operations, products or services by their business relationships, even if they have not contributed to those impacts“ is explained in Pt. 13 of the Guiding Principles. Building a school or digging a well does not get corporations out of their responsibility. Part III engages governments to prepare court systems or other legitimated processes that allows victims of human rights abuse to complain. Companies must participate in legitimate remedy processes (Baab, n.d.).

As required by the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and General Comment No. 15, a few international initiatives have been established in the last years. To what extend is the demand of the topic of human rights in such initiatives and how are private actors and companies involved?

5.4.2. Global Corporate Initiatives

Regarding the use of water resources, corporate initiatives have this topic on their agenda. Four of this global corporate initiatives are highlighted by Hall & Lobina (2012: 11ff): (i) The Water Resource Group (WRG), formed at the WEF, (ii) The CEO Water Mandate, under UN auspices, (iii) Aqueduct Project, (iv) the Water Footprint Network.

Water Resource Group

The WRG had been created, after the UN Secretary-General challenged businesses to mobilise and engage with governments in addressing the issue of water security at the 2008 Annual Meeting of the WEF in Davos. The task of the “new global partnership on water“ (Krishnaswamy, 2012) is to “support a holistic approach to water scarcity“ (WRG, 2012: 5). Since 2008 a group of multinational enterprises launched a series of reports, which is the main function of the WRG. Reports such as ‘Realizing the Potential of Public-Private Partnership Projects in Water‘ (2008) have been published. In Hall & Lobina‘s (2012: 13) opinion, the report was about “treating the creation of PPPs [in water] as an end in itself“. Additional reports have been ‘Managing our Future Water Needs for Agriculture, Industry, Human Health and the Environment‘ from 2008, or ‘The Bubble Is Close To Bursting‘ (2009). The 2009 report `Charting our Water Future´ has been treated as a key document (ibid.). The gap between the demand and supply of water is the main topic of the report. In addition to this WRG also runs projects in developing countries.

Additional to the multinational corporate memberships of the WEF WRG there are two important members: (i) The International Finance Corporation (IFC), (ii) Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF). The IFC is a private sector arm of the World Bank. This means “legitimacy and financial support of the World Bank“ for the initiative (ibid.). WWF is a civil society organisation, mainly financed by private donations. In 2010 WWF received about 11.6 percent of its donations by companies, which means “strong links with the corporate sector“ but then it also received 18.5 percent from governments (ibid.).

UN CEO Water Mandate

This “unique private-public initiative“ was launched by the UN General-Secretary in 2007 (CEO Water Mandate, n.d.). “The CEO Water Mandate seeks to build an international movement of committed companies, both leaders and learners.“ (CEO Water Mandate, 2011). Roughly 100 companies, spanning numerous geographies and industries have endorsed the UN CEO Water Mandate, comprising six core elements and the ten principles of the UN Global Compact (UNGC) to “operate in a more sustainable manner“ and give more priority to managing water resources (ibid., CEO Water Mandate, n.d.).

Physical risks (scarcity of water itself), reputational risks (company and brand image), and regulatory risks (restrictions imposed by governments on corporate water use) are the three bodies of risk assessment CEO Water Mandate works with. This term is used in documents and publications with the idea to talk about ‘shared risks‘ between companies, governments, communities and other stakeholders. For Hall & Lobina (2012: 15) it is an unilateral consideration just about risks for enterprises, not for the society. It looks like companies‘ business practices do not present a risk for anyone. Furthermore, CEO‘s argumentation implies that “companies would be less [at] risk[] if there was no democratic government and no civil society.

Corporations are afraid of serious reputational risks. Therefore it might be a reason, why multinational corporations participate in such initiatives. Except “these [reputational] risks are themselves assessed against opportunities for profit: so even if a course of action is identified as creating serious reputational risk, the company may still conclude that such a risk is acceptable if, for example, admission of moral responsibility or discontinuing the operation would lead to greater losses to the company than the cost of lost reputation“ (ibid.).


Under the umbrella of World Resources Institute (WRI) - “moving human society to live in ways that protect the Earth’s environment and its capacity to provide for the needs and aspirations of current and future generations“ - the Aqueduct project tries to achieve a water-secure future by mapping, measuring, and mitigating global water risks (WRI, n.d. - a). With the beginning of the new millennium the Coca-Cola Company had built up a global database on water scarcity in places the company operated or wanted to operate in the future. Coca-Cola Company wanted to share their data with the idea of more impact and benefit and forwarded them to the public platform of the Aqueduct project (Jenkinson & Rozza, 2011). Reports, issue briefs, and working papers are WRI‘s publication forms, they must align with its mission of a “strategic plan for achieving positive change in the world“ and on its values of “integrity, innovation, urgency, independence, and respect“ (WRI, n.d. - b). WRI praise its publications to be “held to traditional ‘academic‘ standards of excellence such as rigor and objectivity, (...) timely, [and] fit for audience (...)“ (ibid.).

Aqueduct measures “business risks posed by water, thus drawing (...) elements that are relevant to business and financial institutions“ (Hall & Lobina, 2012: 16) in quantity physical risks and quality physical risks. One of the current three indicators on regulatory and reputational risks is media coverage reflecting “the level of awareness of the public and media on water and how companies are handling this resource“ (ibid.). High values characterise a higher public awareness of water issues, risk-creating problems for enterprises because of regulations, critical press, and lawsuits. Less public awareness and less media coverage are good values from enterprises perspective. Hall & Lobina (ibid.) are critical of the fact that indicators of the impact on ecosystems are missing. They also feel that it is just a physical, regulatory and reputational risk analysis for companies, not for societies, like UN CEO. In their opinion the focus of Aqueduct is not neutral.

Global Footprint Network

Beside the direct use of water for essential activities like drinking, cooking and washing; water is also needed indirectly to produce almost everything, not only food. Water Footprint is defined as an “indicator of water use that looks at both direct and indirect water use of a consumer or producer“; which is done by looking at “the total volume of freshwater that is used to produce the goods and services consumed by the individual or community or produced by the business“ (Hoekstra, Chapagain, Aldaya & Mekonnen, 2011: 194).

Various enterprises and non-corporate partners support IFC‘s established network. The global footprint is an attractive benchmark for companies. If they are able to reduce their water footprint for products the reputation of the company will improve, giving them the possibility to produce ‘good‘ products for good public relations, which in turn means less reputational risk. While Hoekstra (cited in Water Footprint Network, n.d.) highlights this kind of network for better understanding and for addressing water shortages and pollution “rooted in the recognition that human impacts on freshwater systems can ultimately be linked to human consumption“. Hall & Lobina (2012: 17) argue that the new water footprint does not say where the water reduction is rooted and it does not say anything about rights and interest conflicts between companies and communities. For Hoekstra “wise water governance and conservation“ is too often missing and he points to a holistic approach so that “governments, (...) consumers, businesses and (...) communities can play a role in achieving a better management of water resources“ (Water Footprint Network, n.d.).

6. Cases

6.1. Coca-Cola Company

6.1.1 The Company

The Coca-Cola Company is an US American multinational beverage corporation. Headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, the company is a producer, retailer, and marketer of nonalcoholic beverages, concentrates and syrups. Its flagship product is the Coca-Cola drink, invented in 1886 by John S. Pemberton, an American pharmacist. He acquired a patent for his beverage and in 1892, the pharmacist Asa Griggs Candler bought the rights of the drink and founded the Coca-Cola Company. Between 1890 and 1900 the sales of Coca-Cola, to that time selling the syrup to independent bottling companies, were increased up to 4,000 percent and were sold across whole north America (Bellis, n.d.). When in 1923 Robert Woodruff became president of Coca-Cola, he made the drink become an international one (Ryan, 2014). The Coca-Cola Company has always operated this franchised distribution system, where only the syrup concentrate is produced and then sold to various bottlers throughout the world who hold an exclusive territory. One of Coca-Cola‘s business philosophies is, that the production always takes place locally (ARD, 2012: 04:15min).

The company presents itself as the largest beverage company in the world today, with more than 500 sparkling and still brands (Coca-Cola Company, 2015c). Apart from in Cuba and North Korea, Coca-Cola produces 1.76 billion drinks around the world every single day (ARD, 2012: 04:15min). In 2014 the Coca-Cola Company had an total revenue of 45.9 billion US Dollars (, n.d. - a). When comparing the 2013 gross domestic product (GDP) of countries to the gross revenue of multinational enterprises, the Coca-Cola Company would be the 86th largest economy in the world (out of 192 countries), out-sizing the economies of Serbia, Tanzania, and Bolivia (World Bank, 2014: 2).

In 2013 a total of 305.4 billion litres of water were used by Coca-Cola Company to produce their beverages globally. Since 2004 the ratio of water needed to produce one litre decreased from 2.7 litres to 2.08 litres in 2013. The ultimate ratio goal the company wants to achieve is 1.7 litres of water used per litre of product by 2020 (Coca-Cola Company, 2015b). The Coca-Cola Company used 140.6 billion litres of municipal water for their production in 2013. It was their main water source, followed by 136 billion litres of ground and surface water and 28.8 billion litres of rainwater and other sources were used (ibid.).

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Table 10: 2013 The Coca-Cola system water use by source in billion litres (Coca-Cola Company: 2015b)

In its current annual report Coca-Cola Company (2015a: 13) states: “As the demand for water continues to increase around the world, and as water becomes scarcer and the quality of available water deteriorates, the Coca-Cola system may incur higher costs or face capacity constraints that could adversely affect our profitability or net operating revenues in the long run.“

“All of us in the Coca-Cola family wake up each morning knowing that every single one of the world‘s 5.6 billion people will get thirsty that day (...) and we are the ones with the best opportunity to refresh them (...) if we make it impossible for these 5.6 billion people to escape Coca-Cola (...) then we assure our future success for many years to come. Doing anything else is not an option.“ (Guizueta, cited in Swanson, 2010: 1)

In its 2020 Vision, started in 2009, the Coca-Cola Company aims to double their servings to over 3 billion a day and wants to have the “global leadership in sustainable water use“ and “industry leadership in packing, energy and climate protection“ (Coca-Cola Company, n.d.).

6.1.2. The Coca-Cola Company and Bottled Water

Shiva (2002: 99) mentions that “[c]ompanies like Coca-Cola are fully aware that water is the real thirst quencher and are jumping into the bottled water business.“ Dasani, Bonaqua, Apollinaris, Kinley and Glacéau are just a few of more than 50 Coca-Cola Company‘s bottled water brands these days (Coca-Cola Company, 2012). The number of bottles of water the Coca-Cola Company sells per year is not available. The company does not seem to publish this information.

In 1999 the Coca-Cola Company started with its bottled water product Dasani at the North American beverage market (Bon Aqua is the international version). In North America it became a “huge success“ (Parsons & Maclaran, 2009: 207). Seven million GBP were spend on a marketing campaign to launch Dasani at the United Kingdom (UK) market in February 2004. The brand failed in the UK. The media called it a “disaster“ (Garrett, 2004), as it emerged that the water had been bottled from England‘s southeast tap water distributer Thames Water. A 500ml bottle of this ‘pure‘ still water brand was sold for 95 pence. For the same amount of tap water Thames Water charged 0.03 pence at that time. That made the final product “(...) 3,000 times more expensive than its key ingredient“ (Carroll, 2009: 4). In Carroll´s (ibid.: 11) opinion the campaign failed, because costumers in Europe are “more discerning about bottled water“. There are so many water brands already available in the European market. After the “secret“ (Garrett, 2004) was published, Coca-Cola justified the high price with a “purification process and added mineral salts“ (ibid.). This business practice “(...) incurred the wrath of the Natural Mineral Water Association by using the words `pure, still water´ on Dasani´s product label“ (Carroll, 2009: 8). To protect the usage of terms, such as mineral and spring the Natural Mineral Water Association created a generic packaging logo (ibid.). In March 2004 a voluntary withdrawal was undertaken by Coca-Coca after bromide, a carcinogenic element, exceeded UK legal standards in Dasani.

6.1.3. Coca-Cola Company‘s Bottled Water Business Practices & Human Rights

Mrs. M. Robinson (Robinson, 2012), President of Ireland and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, points in a guest commentary on Coca-Cola Company´s website to the situation of “one billion very poor people“ unable to enjoy fundamental rights, such as to clean water and concludes: “These and other persistent inequalities shame us all.“

Coca-Cola Company‘s Human Rights Policy can be downloaded on their homepage in different languages. The first headline highlights the respect of human rights by the Coca-Cola Company. “It is committed to identify, prevent, and mitigate adverse human rights impacts resulting from or caused by our business activities before or if they occur through human rights due diligence and mitigation processes.“ (Coca-Cola Company, 2014). In this policy nothing is mentioned about the human right to water in detail. The policies deal more with the second generation of human rights, the ICESC labor rights. At the end of this website there is a link to, a website to get in contact with the Coca-Cola Company about ethical issues in different languages, and for questions or to report violations.

In regions of water scarcity the Coca-Cola Company has equipped schools for water reclamation, building wells and supporting water projects, all indicated by the company‘s logo (ARD, 2012: 36:20min). Coca-Cola underlines in an online blog “why doing good is good for business“ (Miles & Tuggle, 2012). Without the public relation team of Coca-Cola onboard, a TV documentary team found schools where the project facilities had already dried up and wells did not function anymore (ARD, 2012: 37:27min). This does not indicate sustainability. In 2011 the Coca-Cola Company spent 38 million Euros on water projects. During the same period the company invested 4.2 billion Euros on advertising with a profit of 8.6 billion Euros (ibid.: 42:10min).

Besides their own commitment, the Coca-Cola Company is a member of different global corporate partnerships, dealing with topics about the use of water resources, for example WEF, WRG, CEO UN Water Mandate, Aqueduct Project, Water Footprint Network, and they have worked with WWF and Conservation International (Hall & Lobina, 2012, 22ff; Coca-Cola Company, 2015d).

6.1.4. Case Studies

Kaladera / India

The Coca-Cola Company´s business practices in India are often reported on. In an Indian study, Coca-Cola Company is accused of being responsible for the decline of the groundwater level in the region of Kaladara. In 1990, the groundwater level was at a depth of eight metres. In 2000, the level was already at 13 metres and in 2010 at about 36 metres (ARD, 2012: 35:35min). Other sources also report on the lowering of the groundwater level in the vicinity of the Coca-Cola bottling plant (ARD, 2012: 41:40min). In an interview, Mr. Deepak Jolly, from Coca-Cola India, blames the agricultural situation in Kaladara for water scarcity and indicates that the company is the only one recycling water. In his opinion this is a contribution to society (ibid.: 36:00min). Professor M. S. Rathore from the Centre for Environment and Development Studies in Jaipur questions where all the water should be recycled to? He believes that after two dry seasons there cannot be an amount of six to 16 times recycling as Coca-Cola informs us. In his opinion the Coca-Cola Company misleads the public (ibid.: 41:45min). Researches like the Independent Third Party Assessment of Coca-Cola facilities of India, recommended shutting down the factory because of water abuse (ibid.: 41:43min).

Varanasi / India

In 2014 Coca-Cola Company had to close its plant in Varanasi / India. For years there have been complaints about the Mehdiganj plant; it was able to produce 600 PET bottles a minute. Opponents argued the plant had been responsible for major water shortage and groundwater and soil pollution. (The Guardian, 2014).

Cap the Tap Program

In 2010 Coca-Cola Company aimed the `Cap the Tap´ program at restaurants. Affordable, healthy and refreshing, the Coca-Cola Company started to launch this program to capture lost revenue and to increase profit with its portfolio.

“Every time your business fills a cup or glass of tap water, it pours potential profits down the drain. The good news: Cap the Tap™ -- a program available through your Coca-Cola representative -- changes these dynamics by teaching crew members or wait staff suggestive selling techniques to convert requests for tap water into orders for revenue-generating beverages. (...) Turn Off the tap (...): For customers who really do prefer water, Cap the Tap teaches servers to suggest profitable beverages with similar desirable characteristics: Bottled water (...) Key Cap the Tap Benefits

- Increased incidence of profitable beverages

- Higher average check amounts and some store sales (...)

(Coca-Cola Company cited in Huffington Post, n.d. - a & b).

Dasani, Coca-Cola Company´s bottled water brand is an alternative for those “who truly want tap water“ (Belatti, 2014).

6.2. Nestlé S.A.

6.2.1 The Company

Currently Nestlé S.A. is the largest food company in the world. It is a multinational corporation with its head office located in Vevey, Switzerland, it‘s objective is to be “the leader in nutrition, health and wellness“ (Nestlé S.A., 2015). In 1843 the Nestlé history started with the establishment of the first lemonade and water bottling factory of Mr Henri Nestlé. In 1866 the Anglo-Swiss Condensed Milk Co. was founded. One year later German pharmacist Henri Nestlé developed infant cereal, the beginning of the company Nestlé. The successes in the first decades of the last century were made with chocolate and instant coffee. Several mergers let the company Nestlé grow in various field of food production and distribution. In 1977 Nestlé was renamed into Nestlé S.A. (Nestlé S.A., 2014a).

Currently Nestlé S.A. employs around 330,000 people worldwide, is represented in 86 countries and has a portfolio of more than 2,000 brands with a sales of 91.6 billion CHF in 2014 (92,2 billion CHF in 2013) (Nestlé S.A., 2015; Nestlé, 2014;, n.d. - b, ). Nestlé Waters alone had an total sale of 7.2 million CHF in 2013 (Nestlé Waters, n.d. - d).

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Table 11: Nestlé sales in 2013: 92,2 billion CHF - Nestlé Waters had a total sale of 7.2 billion CHF (rest 85 billion CHF) (Nestlé, 2014; Nestlé Waters, n.d. - d)

When comparing the 2013 GDP of countries to the gross revenue of multinational enterprises, Nestlé S.A. would be the 64th largest economy in the world (out of 192 countries), out-sizing the economies of Oman, Belarus, and Cuba (World Bank, 2014: 2).

6.2.2. Nestlé S.A. and Bottled Water

In 1969 Nestlé acquired 30 percent stake in the Société Générale des Eaux Minérales de Vittel, in France. The majority stake in Vittel was taken in 1987 and became in 1992 the “leading player“ (Nestlé Waters, n.d. - a) on the world bottled water market after the acquisition of Perrier under the name Nestlé Source International, later renamed into Perrier Vittel S.A. (ibid., Nestlé S.A., 2014). Currently Nestlé Waters has 33,500 employees, working in one hundred production sites in 36 countries, bottling 58 regional brands. The company has a portfolio of more than 60 ‘unique‘ water brands, which are distributed in 130 countries. The current precise amount of bottle water brands differs. On the one hand Nestlé Waters‘ own homepage has published the amount of 63, and on another homepage slide 64 bottle water brands are mentioned (Nestlé Waters, 2013: 17, n.d. - b, n.d. - c). In terms of value, Nestlé Waters calls believes itself to be “[t]he No. 1 bottled water company worldwide“ and has a three-tier bottled water brand portfolio of sparkling celebrities, regional brands, and Nestlé brands (Nestlé Waters, 2013: 17, n.d. - d). In 2010 Nestlé Waters had a brand value of 2.38 billion US Dollars and was thus the leading company with Perrier, Poland Spring, Pure Life, Vittel, Levissima, and Contrex six out of the ten most valuable bottled water brands worldwide (Statista, 2015b). With its four most successful brands Pure Life, Poland Spring, Deer Park, and Ozaka in the top ten at the world‘s largest bottled water market Nestlé Waters had 2.21 billion US Dollar sales and was thus the leading company in the USA in 2014 (Statista, 2015a).

1998 Pure Life was launched as the first multi-site bottled water under the Nestlé brand. Ten years later Pure Life was the world‘s leading bottled water brand with a total sale of five billion litres (Nestlé Waters, n.d. - a, b). Currently, Pure Life is presented by Nestlé as its bottled water “flagship“ (Nestlé Waters, 2013: 18), and declared as the leading global bottled water brand “with more than 9.2 billion litres sold in 2012 in over 41 countries“ (ibid.).

6.2.3. Nestlé S.A.‘s Bottled Water Business Practices & Human Rights

In 2007, Nestlé‘s 140th anniversary, former Nestlé CEO Peter Brabeck-Letmathe brought up the topic and discussion of water. Both as a basic need for the company's raw materials and production processes as well as the potential consequences of ignoring water scarcity problems in general (Regenass, 2010). In his opinion water is food product, that needs a value to be protected against mismanagement. In an official Nestlé video Brabeck-Letmathe states:

“(...) There are apparently some misconceptions about my ideas of water. (...) I have always supported the Human Right to water. Everyone should have enough clean, safe water to meet their fundamental daily needs. About 50 to 100 litres per day. But not to fill a pool or wash a car. There is the difference. (...) Water scarcity is the greatest challenge we face today. And we need to start recognising water as a pressures resource. Therefore water should be better managed, should be better valued and has to be better preserved. If we give water value there will be an incentive to invest in looking after our supply. (...)“ (Nestlé, 2013: 00:15min).

In this interview on Nestlé homepage it is remarked, that in Brabeck-Lemathe‘s opinion water is “distributed unevenly and too much of it is wasted, polluted and unsustainably managed.“ He clarifies that “everyone, everywhere in the world has the right to clean, safe water for drinking and sanitation“ in regard to water as human right. Going further, he argues that “everyone should have free access to the water they need for drinking and sanitation, wherever they are in the world“ (Nestlé S.A., 2014b). In this context bottled waters like Pure Life are in no competition to tap water. Instead, Pure Life should be seen as an affordable alternative to expensive waters in developing countries, like Perrier or San Pelligrino, which are bottled in Europe and distributed to those places (Regenass, 2010). “Bottled water is not a major part of the solution to the world's drinking water needs.“ (Nestlé S.A., 2003: 10). Brabeck-Letmathe (cited in Schnell, 2010: 55:56min) points out, that 0.0009 percent of the world‘s freshwater is sold by Nestlé S.A. “not even a drop in the ocean“. Bottled water can be a source of clean water when no safe water supply is available (Nestlé S.A., 2003: 10). After five years experience of Pure Life in Pakistan, Rosemann (2005: 1) states that Nestlé S.A. “frames its global objectives with regard to bottled water less in terms of profit and more in relationship to the global struggle against water shortage“

Nestlé S.A. is member of different global corporate partnerships dealing with the topic of the use of water resources, including WEF, WRG, CEO UN Water Mandate, and Water Footprint Network (Hall & Lobina, 2012, 22ff).

6.2.4. Case Studies

In order to meet the high demand for clean drinking water, Nestlé S.A. is constantly looking for new sources. Either they purchase water rights, like in British Columbia or Pakistan, or they buy headwaters, like in Kingfield / Maine (USA). The accusation directed at Nestlé S.A. is that the company is well versed in dealing with laws, processes, lawsuits, and regulations to achieve their goals (Dana, cited in Schnell, 2012: 20:47min). For Barlow (cited in ibid.: 23:18min) companies like Nestlé are a predator, stealing the livelihood of communities in poor regions. Their business policies are not made for sustainability, because there is no link to the territory. It is more about pumping out the groundwater and leave the scene afterwards.

British Columbia - Nestlé

Currently in British Columbia, online petitions opposing a new regulation “that will make companies pay a small amount to access the province's ground water“ as a fee, not for the water itself (CBC News, 2015). Starting in 2016 Nestlé S.A. will only pay 2.25 C$ per million litres. “If a Canadian were to bottle enough groundwater to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool, they‘d pay C$ 180. Nestlé will pay C$ 6.25.“ (SumOfUs, n.d.). The public complaints about the fact, that “when over one hundred thousand people objected to Nestlé taking 285 million litres of Canada‘s water for free and selling it around the world, this wasn‘t the fix they had in mind.“ (ibid.). While in other parts of the world people face water shortage this kind of pricing policy is dubious.


At the end of the last millennium Nestlé S.A. started in Pakistan as the first market to launch the new brand Pure Life (Rosemann, 2005: 22). At the beginning the company used an “aggressive market strateg[y]“ in Pakistan. During “‘awareness seminars‘ about bad water conditions“ Nestlé S.A. tried to influence the population (ibid). At first this scaring and misleading kind of strategy was counterproductive for Nestlé S.A. Later the public discussion “gained public attention [for Nestlé] as a safe option for bottled water“ (Rosemann, 2005: 23). Pure Life was not stopped, it is today the bestselling brand in developing countries. Instead of waters from springs, Nestlé S.A. used ground water in Pakistan. Rosmann (ibid.) argues that this decision was made because “ground water lacks regulations and proper monitoring“. Nestlé S.A.‘s first production plant was in Sheikhupua, and soon after it became operational, the nearby villagers complained that the groundwater level had dropped from 30 metres to between 90 metres and 120 metres. The result was dried up wells and polluted water (Hayat cited in Schnell, 2005: 51:31min). Nestlé S.A. denied a request of the village‘s mayor to build them their own well (Khan, cited ibid.: 55:22). Alam (cited ibid.: 52:55min) points out the unclear legal situation in Pakistan to the question, who owns the groundwater. At the time of writing it is still not regulated.

Kingfield / Maine (USA)

Poland Spring (Nestlé S.A.) bought property in Kingfield / Maine. The company does not pay anything for the water itself, because by law everything on the property belongs to the owner, as well what is situated below. Real estate tax is the only thing that has to be paid (Dill, cited in Schnell, 2012: 27:52min). In Kingfield, Nestlé S.A. became involved in the community with the project known as ‘good neighbourhood policy‘ which donated to the local fire brigade or restored a community children's playground (ibid.: 27:00min). Nestlè S.A. once stated: “Our CSR report is as thick as our financial report“ (Schnell, 2012: 03:30min).

7. Conclusion

Water is one of the essential natural resources for human beings. It has always been an agricultural and industrial factor, responsible for the development of societies since human civilisation. Conditions of living are changed by water and thus changes societies. The UN states that there is enough water for seven billion people, but fresh water is not available in all parts on earth in the same amount. It is a limited resource but the world is not running out of fresh water. In some regions, and that does not only mean developing countries in the southern hemisphere, the distribution of this essential resource is changing. There is a competition between agricultural, industrial, and municipal needs. In addition to global climate change, we see that ecological conditions and environmental degradation contribute to water scarcity, too.

These disparities have led to discussions about water as a commodity, as an economic good that needs a market value. The topic has been on the agenda of several international conferences, forums, declarations, comments, and resolutions during the last decades and importance of the topic is highlighted by the fact that in 2010 the UN declared that access to safe water is a human right. Likewise the commitment of the UN to halve (by 2015) the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe drinking water as one of the MDGs (no. 7c) emphasises the importance and urgency attached to this global issue. As with so many other human rights, the right to water is suspended high as well but it is not legally binding and therefore not enforceable.

In March this year UNESCO admitted that this aim has not been reached. 748 million people still lack access to an improved drinking water source. In those regions in the world water is a life saving remedy, for the sake people have to walk sometimes long distances to meet their ‘social minimum‘ needs of 20 l/c/d for life and health, a luxury natural resource. On the contrary water in ‘24/7 on-the-go‘ societies has become a omnipresent bottled live-style beverage accessory. Luxury versions contain alleged mountain or glacier water or is directly delivered from Fiji Islands. The advertisement promises enhanced beauty, fostered vitality and defied ageing by enjoying bottled water, customers spending the multiple than for tap water.

“Everyone, everywhere has the right to clean safe water for drinking and sanitation“ and “bottled water can be a source of clean water when no safe water supply is available“ Nestlé‘s former CEO Mr Brabeck-Letmathe stated (Nestlè, 2014b). The business with bottled water has become a highly profitable one for the food and drink companies, with the potential of one trillion US Dollars. Bottled water can be alternative for water mismanagement, which might not be inopportune for the companies, because “the biggest enemy [for the bottled water companies] is tap water“ (Leonard, 2010: 05:49min).

States are responsible to protect, respect, fulfil and promote human rights in first place. The human right to water is prerequisite for the realisation of other human rights. Companies and their bottled waters have not solved and will not be able to solve the lack and guarantee the human right to water in the near future. Though these companies whose total revenue is higher than the GDPs of half of the States in the world may have a responsibility with its increasing profit treating water as a ‘economic good‘. In addition these companies (i) remove and use host countries' resources, (ii) usually paying like nothing for it, and (iii) remaining the produced waste in the country. The UN‘s Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights as a ‘protect, respect and remedy framework‘ highlights States‘ and corporations‘ conditions to respect human rights in business activities.

The companies have customised their appearance in public. On Coca-Cola Company‘s website there is a lot to find about the company in context to human rights. More or less it deals with labor rights. Nestlé S.A‘s former CEO Peter Brabeck-Letmathe is cited several times during the last years. He is one of the prominent proponents of water as an economic good that needs a market value, blaming developing countries for mismanagement of their water systems. Both companies can boast many projects in which they work for the human right to water. While considering the cases, the impression arose that sustainability is not necessarily given, as Barlow describes them as predators, stealing the livelihood of communities in poor regions. It looks like window-dressing to avoid reputational risks. A risk factor companies take serious in terms of revenue. For this purpose fits Coca-Cola Company‘s utterance “doing good is good for business“ (Miles & Tuggle, 2012).

On the basis of study cases it was highlighted the business practices of Coca-Cola-Company and Nestlé S.A., companies whose total revenue is higher than the GDPs of half of the States in the world. As stock corporations inevitably profit maximisation is top priority. The identified cases, like ‘Cap the Tap‘ (Coca-Cola Company) or ‘awareness seminar‘ (Nestlé S.A.) to launch their product on the market may not violate human rights. Purchasing water rights or buying water resources in all parts of the world is neither a criminal offence, nor does it violate human rights. In point of fact such business practices certainly undermine human rights, paying nearly nothing for a huge amount of water to sell it with a maximum of profit, like the cases in Canada and the USA. Such exploiting business practices do have criminal intentions. Unclear legal situations, well versed in dealing with laws, processes, lawsuits, and regulations to achieve their goals (Dana, cited in Schnell, 2012: 20:47min) and the fact that multinational companies have no link to a territory, where they stay as long as the resource is available, makes it difficult for a credible sustainable business philosophy. The India cases raise the question, who is responsible for dried wells, when such companies are allowed to pump up groundwater. If this is not a human rights violation, then surely if the companies prohibit to build new wells to share the amount of groundwater with the population. Coca-Cola Company and Nestlé S.A. seem to have a different perspective on the human right to water.

The accountability of such business practices seems to be difficult. The Guiding Principle on Business and Human Rights may help to close this important gap. Such multinational companies do have professional knowledge to skim resources like water. States with a lack of knowledge should join partnerships for synergy effect, without handing over the whole accountability. PPP means equal partnership to serve for the community, without exploiting them. Human rights are often seen as panacea. If abuses and erroneous handling can not be legally permitted or sanctioned the reference to human rights is often the last resort. Nevertheless it must be noted that if private or public parties can not fulfil the human right to water and no one is really responsible for violations and omissions, how should multinational corporations be held accountable for their commitments with regard to human rights?

With regard to human rights, the term ‘realisation‘ is often used instead of ‘enforcement‘, which demonstrates half-heartedness in terms of implementation. The responsibilities to protect, respect and fulfil human rights, whether by law, contracts or code of conducts, must be more intensively taken into account. It requires tight formulated responsibilities with the possibility to declare an enforceability. Just to state, that the “CSR report is as thick as our financial report“ (Brabeck-Letmathe, cited in Schnell, 2012: 03:30min) does not justice to the delicate topic.

It would really be a pity if the world needed 007 on the scene to save it from Racketeers involved in water resources; simply because the stakeholders were unable to find a proper solution. James Bond certainly has plenty of other missions to accomplish in this world!

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Privatization of Water. A Violation of Human Rights?
A Case Study on Business Practices with Bottled Water
Ruhr-University of Bochum
Criminal Justice, Governance and Police Science
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ISBN (Book)
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Human Rights, Water Privatization, Bottled Water, Nestlé, Coca-Cola, Menschenrechte, die Privatisierung von Wasser, Wasser in Flaschen, Mineralwasser, Milleniumgoals, Vereinte Nationen, United Nations, Kriminologie, Criminologie
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Kurosch Moayad (Author), 2015, Privatization of Water. A Violation of Human Rights?, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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