Global warming has reduced the availability of freshwater resources, pushing 3 billion people to live in water-stressed conditions. However, corporations (at least in California to begin with) can now ensure for themselves a steady supply of affordable water by trading water as a commodity, like oil and gold. These water-commodity contracts, known as water futures, are now offered on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME), which has highlighted that demand for water futures will only grow due to the impact of climate change on the Earth’s water resources.
It’s a controversial development – one that reframes water from the United Nations-defined human right to a good for sale to the highest bidder. This approach puts water into a competitive space where the financially privileged can secure their access by entering into sophisticated water future contracts, further distancing less-privileged individuals from claiming access to water as their fundamental right. Such a reimagining of water could profoundly affect India, as well as the financial order of the whole world.