The Growing Threat of Water Privatization
Wall Street and large corporations are targeting the water assets of cash-strapped communities. They offer either to cut costs often by cutting corners or to provide upfront money in exchange for long-term control of water and sewer systems. These long-term leases and sales can be thought of like high-interest credit cards, and the long-term payoff goes to the private corporations. These corporations, once in control of a vital public resource, have a natural monopoly, and long-term complex contracts and outright system sales can stop local governments from stepping in to address residents’ concerns.
Water privatization sacrifices local control of services that are critical for public health and wellbeing.
- Rate increases
- Lack of public accountability and transparency
- Higher operating costs
- Worse customer service
- Loss of one in three water jobs
Our research shows that on average water corporations charge 59 percent more for water service than local government utilities charge.
We Help Communities Keep Their Water Public
Food & Water Watch is one of the leaders in the campaign to ensure safe, affordable public water service for all, and we have helped communities stop over three dozen water and sewer privatization efforts.
We provide communities considering privatization with the resources to find better, long-term solutions, and we help organize residents to resist efforts to privatize. We keep an eye on the big water companies —Veolia, Suez, American Water, and Aqua American— and we advocate for public sector solutions, including public-public partnerships, which allow two or more public water utilities or non-governmental organizations to join forces and leverage shared capacities. We educate local governments about the risks of hasty water privatization deals and offer alternatives.
Our research library is a great place for concerned community members and elected officials to learn about the risks of selling, leasing and outsourcing their vital public water and wastewater services.
Advocating for Water Affordability
Our country faces a water service affordability crisis. With cuts to federal support and growing costs to update century-old systems and meet stronger water quality requirements, many local governments have had to increase water charges in recent years. One study found that water rates are already unaffordable for more than one in ten households nationwide. Water privatization would only exacerbate this affordable crisis.
Food & Watch is at the forefront of the movement to support local solutions to this growing program. We work with grassroots groups and local advocates to pass city ordinances to establish income-based water affordability programs. For a person to have access to water, service charges must be affordable. The United Nations indicates that for water charges to be considered affordable, they should not exceed 3 percent of a household’s income. An income-based billing program would adjust a low-income household’s water bill down to a level that they can afford to pay.
At the federal level, we advocate for a dedicated source of federal funding to help public water and wastewater utilities make critical updates and repairs and keep service charges affordable for their communities. Urge your Congressional Representative to co-sponsor the WATER Act and support our public water and sewer systems.