Just before the Oroville Dam became daily front page news, during what turned out to be a brief lull in this winter’s storms, one of my neighbors asked me if I thought the drought was over. “Nope, just an interlude,” I said.
“No whining, no griping, pull yourself up by your bootstraps.” That’s how Susan Story describes the hard lessons she learned growing up in rural Alabama. Then why is the corporation she leads as chief executive officer, American Water, complaining about opposition to its plans in West Virginia?
Yesterday, state leaders scrapped a bill that would have made it easier for private corporations to buy municipal water and sewer utilities across the state. The bill, introduced at the request of a for-profit water company based in Pennsylvania, would have made it more difficult for Wisconsin residents to vote on who controls their water.
The evidence against privatization is plain as day. Customers of Wisconsin’s only privately owned system—which services the city of Superior—pay the highest rates in the state. On top of the costs of water and infrastructure maintenance, Superior’s residents pay an additional nine percent to cover their private operator’s profit margin and higher private-sector debt costs.
And Superior isn’t an outlier. A new report released on Tuesday by Food and Water Watch shows that,
Remunicipalization is big word for a simple concept: It’s the process of bringing a formerly privatized service or asset back under public control. For residents and taxpayers, remunicipalization is often the logical conclusion after private water corporations fail to deliver on their promises. For corporations like Veolia and Suez that earn profits from taking over municipal water systems, remunicipalization is a major threat to their business model. And that threat is growing every year.
According to a new book from the Transnational Institute and other organizations, the rate of remunicipalization is “accelerating dramatically”:
“Over the last 15 years, 235 cases of water remunicipalization have been recorded in 37 countries, impacting on more than 100 million people. Moreover the pace of remunicipalization is accelerating dramatically, doubling in the 2010-2015 period compared with 2000-2010.”
City leaders and residents across the globe are reclaiming their water systems from private profiteers and ensuring that access to clean water remains a human right for every citizen.
From boiling the soon-to-be-mashed potatoes to rinsing the fruits and vegetables, clean water is an essential ingredient in every household that will be preparing Thanksgiving dinner.
And yet, the absence of adequate federal support means our public water systems are under threat. Over the next 20 years, U.S. water systems will likely require a staggering $2.8 to $4.8 trillion investment, and for-profit corporations such as Veolia and Suez are jumping at the opportunity to privatize America’s water supply so they can pocket a portion of those trillions we’ll need to spend.
A new report released by Corporate Accountability International with Public Services International Research Unit (PSIRU), shows that promises made by private water corporations fail to materialize or come at the expense of deferred infrastructure maintenance, skyrocketing water rates and risks to public health.
The good news, however, is that cities across the country and all over the world are increasingly rejecting water privatization and are taking back public control of their water systems.