Can Water Privatization Drain a Community?
We talk all the time about how expensive bottled water can be. Imagine paying $175 each week for your family’s supply of water in your own home. Unfortunately, some residents in Northwood Oaks, a community in Raleigh, North Carolina, are finding out the hard way that bad things can happen when public services like water are privatized.
Aqua America, one of the largest publicly traded water and waste water corporations in the U.S., has found itself in the middle of a community water crisis, allegedly due to its over-pumping water from nearby wells. Now, the residents’ own wells are dry, which has caused the surrounding county to declare a state of emergency.
Aqua America’s solution to the problem was to offer to connect each resident to water system, making them new customers. But residents believe they already own the water from their private wells and that Aqua America’s over-exuberant pumping is the reason those wells are tapped. Why would you want to pay for water you already had? Although Aqua America offered to provide water for Northwood Oaks residents for free, residents would have to pay $175 per week to the county for the delivery.
When we rally against the privatization of water, this is one of the scenarios that causes our concern. When companies like Aqua America are left in control of public water, corporate profits will likely trump the needs of the public. In this case, Aqua America says they have done nothing wrong; they are merely pumping water from their own wells outside of the Northwood Oaks community. It’s difficult to imagine that Aqua’s water usage isn’t somehow having a direct effect on community wells. The county believes there is a connection, and preliminary data point a finger at Aqua America.
The scariest part of this story is that the situation in Raleigh could happen anywhere that water is privatized. Water companies like Aqua America are trying to convince economically challenged cities and towns to privatize their water systems. Northwood Oaks is an example of just one of several ways water privatization can be bad for communities – even for people not served by the company. We’ll keep an eye on this story and let you know what happens!