Your body is composed of more than 60 percent water. In a hot climate, it can take as few as 72 hours to die from dehydration. Water is necessary for the processes of photosynthesis and respiration. It is the basis for all life on Earth. And now more than ever, it is the most valuable product in the world.

Product. The use of that word was intentional. I do not mean a biological product. I mean a commercial good, a thing bought and sold for a price. Multinational corporations started the privatization of water at the turn of the 19th century and only now are the implications of this shift coming to light.

Companies such as Suez and Vivendi partner with the World Bank to offer loans to third world countries. When countries are unable to pay back these loans, water companies seize the opportunity to privatize the water systems, making people who are already unable to feed their families pay for the “privilege” of clean water. Left with no choice, destitute families in countries like Bolivia and India drink contaminated water that leaves their children to suffer from deadly diseases.

The people in these countries never agreed to the privatization of their water system. Unfortunately, their cries fall on deaf ears, as the body supposedly regulating such abuses is run by the very multinational corporations leading the privatization movement.

As our world is transformed by climate change and pollution, potable water will only become more scarce. Soon, the source of life that unites us all will begin to pull apart the very fabric of human society. We propagate military conflicts to maintain a steady supply of oil, fuel for our vehicles and heat for our homes.

Think about competing for a substance necessary for basic survival. Think about the possibility of dying because of dehydration or disease from polluted water. These are the scenarios that many people face every day, and unless the developed nations of the world begin upholding the universal right to clean drinking water, one day you may find your own children poisoned at the cost of a corporation’s profit margin.

As a college student in Binghamton, N.Y., you can take action. Be thankful for the readily available tap water provided on this campus and make yourself aware of parties wishing to risk your health for selfish gain, like those advocating the practice of hydraulic fracturing. If you were moved by this article and wish to diminish the influence of multinational water companies, stop buying plastic water bottles and start using a reusable container.

Not only is bottled water almost completely unregulated by federal and state governments, but it also exploits communities without their permission. For instance, the corporation Nestle clandestinely began operations in Michigan without offering the community any sort of notice or monetary compensation. A petition is circulating to ban the use of plastic bottles on campus. If you’d like to learn more about this movement, feel free to contact members of the student group Intellectual Decisions on Environmental Awareness Solutions (IDEAS). Remember that water is not a product, but a natural right.