New Orleans, LA
In 2000, the city of New Orleans proposed what would have been the largest water privatization contract in the nation. The 20-year, $1.5 billion deal attracted the attention of the two of big water heavy hitters: Vivendi (now Veolia) and Suez’s United Water.
Fortunately, public opposition stopped the deal before it ever began. How did community members gain enough clout to defeat two corporate giants? They got organized.
A powerful community coalition of 90 organizations, including churches, civic organizations, seniors groups and environmental groups, worked to defeat the privatization proposal. The Water for All Campaign, ACORN and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 100 played key roles in building community power.
Volunteers took the fight out into the open using car caravans, lawn signs, door-to-door education and rallies. And they organized a local referendum that gave voters the power to approve or reject any privatization contract worth more than $5 million.
In March 2002, voters overwhelmingly approved the popular referendum, and a few months later, the New Orleans Water and Sewerage Board voted to reject privatization.
- A Closer Look: Veolia Environnement (fact sheet)
- United Water: Suez Environnement’s Poor Record in the United States (report)
- Faulty Pipes: Why Public Funding — Not Privatization — Is the Answer for U.S. Water Systems (report)
- Water Privatization Threatens Workers, Consumers and Local Economies (report)