Ft. Wayne, IN
When residents in the northern part of Fort Wayne became fed up with the consistently poor water service of their private provider, the Indiana arm of Aqua America, they turned to the city for a solution.
For some time, these residents had been plagued by discolored water and poor service. To address the problem, community members and local leaders decided to transfer the system and its 9,000 customers from Aqua Indiana to the city of Fort Wayne.
In 2002, Fort Wayne began pursuing an eminent domain action in order to purchase the water and sewer system. Neighborhoods voiced overwhelming support for the acquisition and circulated petitions endorsing the purchase.
“These neighborhoods have been asking for better water at a lower cost,” said Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry in January. “Several neighborhoods petitioned for City water. Fort Wayne’s water system has the capacity to easily serve them.”
Despite legal challenges by Aqua Indiana, in July 2007 the Indiana Supreme Court ruled that the city could proceed with its purchase. By 2008, Aqua Indiana finally turned the system over to the city, which intended to provide better service at a lower price.
Meanwhile, Aqua Indiana continues to contest the value of the system. In September 2012, the company’s suit reached the state supreme court. In April 2013, the state supreme court ruled in favor of the company requiring a jury to set the purchase price. The city awaits that jury trial.
Because of uncertainty over the price of that system, the city delayed purchasing the company’s other water system, which serves residents in the southwestern part of the city. These remaining Aqua customers continued to clamor for public service.
In mid-November 2012, Mayor Henry acted on those concerns and proposed a public purchase of the company’s remaining southwestern water system. Henry explained, “This is about public health and public safety.”
In July 2013, the city announced that it had reached a tentative agreement with Aqua to purchase the remaining water system. The deal is pending.
- Communities Reject Private Control of Local Water Resources (press release; February 21, 2008)
- Aqua America: Strategies of a Water Profiteer (report; September 2008)
- Money Down the Drain: How Private Control of Water Wastes Public Resources (report; February 2009)
- Municipalization Guide: How U.S. Communities Can Secure Local Public Control of Privately Owned Water and Sewer Systems (report; July 2012)