He pointed to a company called Future 500 that has created a business out of mediating between corporations and communities. "It's hard for companies to speak to people so they use other companies to do it," Slavin said.
In fact, representatives from Future 500 appeared to be the only conference attendees who stepped outside to watch the protest.
"I think it's great," Erik Wohlgemuth of Future 500, said of the protest. "I think press should have been there. I think more of these voices should have been there. My personal view is they need to come up with some sort of reduced rate to allow these nonprofits to attend these kinds of conferences."
Jeremy Shute, a representative from global infrastructure company AECOM who was standing with Wohlgemuth, said, "There's a tremendous amount of research and thought going into these questions and it would be great if that knowledge could be shared."
But is that going to happen when private companies cite "proprietary interest" as a reason for not sharing more information about their businesses? Or when they don't have to abide by public records laws, leaving their contracts shielded from public scrutiny? Or when they refuse to answer calls from their constituencies and the media? In which case, should those advocates be in the same room as some of the biggest water users in the world? When pressed with the question, Slavin seemed stumped. "Why didn't we invite them?" he asked. Then, after a long, thoughtful pause, he said, "I don't know."
WATER, BY THE NUMBERS
One-half of 1 percent of the world's water is fresh. 
Of that .5 percent, about 50 percent is polluted. 
One in 6 people don't have access to clean, safe water. 
Five food and beverage giants Nestlé, Unilever, Coca-Cola, Anheuser Busch, and Groupe Danone consume almost 575 billion liters of water per year, enough to satisfy the daily water needs of every person on the planet. 
The average human needs about 13 gallons of water each day for drinking, cooking, and sanitation. 
An average North American uses about 150 gallons of water each day. 
An average African: 1.5 gallons. 
An average San Franciscan: 72 gallons. 
The average Los Angeles resident: 122 gallons. 
About half the water used by a typical home goes for lawns, gardens, and pools. 
50 percent of US water comes from non-renewable groundwater. 
86 percent of Americans get their water from public water systems. 
80 percent of California's homes get water from public systems. 
The 20 percent of CA households receiving water from privately-owned systems pay an average of 20 percent more for it. 
Of the 4.5 billion people with access to clean drinking water worldwide, 15 percent are buying it from private water companies. 
It takes 3 liters of water to produce 1 liter of bottled water. 
Tests of 1,000 bottles of water spanning 103 brands revealed that about one-third contained some level of contamination. 
The bottled water industry is worth $60 billion a year. 
Water is the third biggest industry in the world, worth $425 billion, ranking just behind electricity and oil. 
About 70 percent of CA's water lies north of Sacramento, but 80 percent of the demand is from the southern two-thirds of the state.
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