Are Privatized Water Utilities in Cahoots With Shale Gas Companies?
By Rich Bindell
On one hand, we have shale gas companies who have been rushing into various regions of the country to extract gas using a dangerous extraction process that involves toxic chemicals potentially contaminating our drinking water. On the other hand, we also have investor-owned water utilities (IOU’s) who are taking a public resource out of the hands of the public and profiting greatly from it. What happens when you put them both together? The results are revealed in the latest Food & Water Watch Report, Why the Water Industry is Promoting Shale Gas Development and they could involve the over-generalization of water quality tests, increased water rates and big profits… for the investors.
The report details big concerns about the sketchy relationship between IOU’s and gas companies, including the possibility that IOU’s would protect their investment even if it meant downplaying the risks of contamination caused by their new customers: shale gas companies.
Not only that, but water contamination in a community can lead to new customers for the private water utilities when they need to find a new source of drinking water. Look at what’s happening in Pavillion, Wyoming and Dimock, Pennsylvania, and you can see that this could be a tricky relationship to monitor. If your household relies on its own drinking water well and it suddenly becomes contaminated, you might have to deal with switching to an IOU to provide your water. They can benefit from contamination.
The report also points to IOU’s giving gas-drilling companies discounted rates for water—an average of 45 percent less than residential customers, in the case of one IOU. This sets the tone for water—a public resource —to be sold cheaply to shale gas companies, giving IOU’s a handsome profit. And this water would be used for fracking, which could potentially contaminate water sources.
Do we really want to sell our clean water up the river?