How water privatization threatens our communities
Water privatization sacrifices the local control of essential services that is so critical for public health and well-being.
Many water privatization deals can be thought of like high-interest credit cards. They appeal to cash-strapped communities in need of big infrastructure retrofits, but 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 often means:
- Rate increases
- Lack of public accountability
- Higher operating costs
- Worse service
- Loss of one in three water jobs
- Deteriorating infrastructure
Our research shows that investor owned utilities typically charge 33 percent more for water and 63 percent more for sewer 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, and we have helped communities stop over three dozen privatization efforts. We provide communities considering privatization with the resources to find better, long-term solutions, and help organize residents to resist the pressure to privatize. By keeping an eye on big private utility companies, like United Water, and advocating for 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 resources.
Advocating for federal support
On the federal level, we advocate for a dedicated source of public funding that will help public utilities overcome budget shortfalls and maintain critical infrastructure. Federal funding for water is often among the first items on the chopping block during congressional budget battles, despite the fact that much of our water infrastructure was built around the same time that Henry Ford developed the Model T. On a per capita basis, federal funding has declined 82% since its peak. In 1977, the federal government spent $76.27 per person (in 2014 dollars) on our water services, but by 2014 that support had fallen to $13.68 per person. That is why we support the Water Affordability, Transparency, Equity and Reliability Act — the WATER Act — which would provide dedicated funding for our water infrastructure by closing corporate tax loopholes. The WATER Act would generate a significant portion of the funds we need to keep our water and sewer systems up-to-date and protect our drinking water for generations to come. Urge your Congressional Representative to support the WATER Act and fund our public water utilities. We also fight damaging legislation that would set back our country’s vital water infrastructure. For example:
The Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act: This pilot program, which was attached to a large water resources bill, will undermine and compete with State Revolving Fund programs. It creates a redundant program that would benefit large water corporations and Big Oil and Gas at the expense of small and rural water systems and other communities with the greatest water quality problems.
The Partnership to Build America Act: This law rewards corporate tax evaders and gives them control of the United States’ vital infrastructure funding. It also would promote and facilitate the privatization of public water and sewer services.
Sustainable Water Infrastructure Investment Act: This would allow private water companies to issue unlimited tax-exempt private activity bonds. It would give unnecessary and unjustified tax breaks for the exclusive benefit of privatized water utilities.