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Community Efforts

Community Efforts Against Water Privatization in the United States

Across the country and around the world, communities are fighting to retain, gain and strengthen local public control of their water and sewer systems. We at Food & Water Watch provide information and support to residents, public officials, water utility staff, and community leaders who are fighting to protect their water resources from privatization and corporate control. We serve as a clearinghouse for information about the consequences and risks of privatization and about the economic, social and environmental benefits of local public control.

Something happening in your community? Have questions? Let us know — email us at water(at)fwwatch(dot)org.

Read below for stories of what people are doing to retain and strengthen local democratic control of their water and sewer systems.

CONTENTS

Arizona
California
Connecticut
Florida
Georgia
Illinois
Indiana
Kentucky
Louisiana
Massachusetts
Michigan
Missouri
Nebraska
New Jersey
New York
Ohio
Pennsylvania
Washington
Wisconsin 

Arizona

Cave Creek
Type: Public victory (municipalization)
Year: 2008
Summary: The town purchased its privately owned water system. [Read more]

California

Felton
Type: Public victory (municipalization)
Year: 2008
Summary: After a concerted effort by Felton FLOW, the San Lorenzo Valley Water District purchased the town’s water system from a subsidiary of American Water. [Read more

Montara
Type: Public victory (municipalization)
Year: 2003
Summary: The town purchased its water system from a subsidiary of American Water [Read more]

Monterey County
Type: Ongoing (municipalization)
Summary: Public Water Now is seeking local public control of its water system from a subsidiary of American Water. [Read more]

San Diego
Type: Ongoing (privatization)
Summary: The city is pursuing privatization of various government services and functions through managed competition. Public workers have won several bids, including one for the stormwater department.
[Read more]

Stockton
Type: Public victory (municipalization)
Year: 2008
Summary: For four years, the Concerned Citizens Coalition of Stockton waged a grassroots campaign that culminated in a legal victory to defeat the privatization of their municipal water and sewer systems. The city reclaimed public operation of the systems after a judge determined that the privatization contract with OMI/Thames Water had violated California environmental law. [Read more]

Connecticut

Bethel
Type: Public victory (prevented privatization)
Year: 2013
Summary: Voters overwhelmingly rejected the proposed sale of their water system to Aquarion Water Company. [Read more]

Florida

Statewide
Type: Public victory (municipalization)
Year: 2013
Summary: 
FLOW Florida waged a successful effort against the state arm of Aqua America. As a result, the company sold all of its Florida systems to Florida Governmental Utility Authority and other entities. [Read more]

Citrus County
Type:  Public victory (prevented privatization)
Year: 2012
Summary:  The Citrus County Council — a grass-roots consortium of civic clubs, homeowners associations and environmental groups — organized to stop the privatization of their water systems. As a result, the county commission voted to stop the process of privatizing the operation and maintenance of the county utilities. [Read more]

Georgia

Atlanta
Type: Public victory (remunicipalization)
Year: 2003
Summary: The city dissolved its contract with United Water in response to public concerns. While the contract, which began in 1999, had a history of scandal, ultimately it was performance that doom United Water [Read more]

Illinois

Statewide
Type: Ongoing
Summary: Food & Water Watch has opposed various state bills that would have facilitated privatization and rate hikes for investor owned water utilities. We have also supported state legislation to facilitate municipalization of privately owned water systems. [Read more]

Chicago
Type: Ongoing (privatization)
Summary: Public opposition has made the idea of leasing the city’s water system untenable, but Mayor Rahm Emanuel plans to outsource jobs at the Water Management Department. [Read more]    

Urbana
Type: Ongoing (municipalization)
Summary: Laurel Prussing, the mayor of Urbana, is a long-time advocate of a public purchase of the city’s water system from Illinois-American Water. [Read more]

Indiana

Ft. Wayne
Type: Public victory (municipalization)
Year: 2008
Summary: Ft. Wayne took over the privately owned water system serving a northern area of the city in 2008 and negotiated a plan to take public control of the company’s remaining water system in 2013. [Read more]

Indianapolis
Type: Case study
Year: 2011
Summary: The city exited its water management contract with Veolia as part of the city’s sale of its water and sewer utilities to a nonprofit public trust. [Read more]

Marion
Type: Public victory (prevented privatization)
Year: 2010
Summary: Public opposition stopped the sale of Marion’s water and sewer systems. [Read more]

Kentucky

Lexington
Type: Case study
Year: 2006
Summary: A community effort led by Bluegrass For Local Ownership of Water and Let Us Vote Lexington sought a public purchase of the city’s water system from American Water, but the company’s well-greased campaign stopped the local control effort. [Read more]

Louisiana

New Orleans
Type: Public victory (prevented privatization)
Year: 2002
Summary: After strong public opposition to privatization, the New Orleans Water and Sewerage board voted against privatizing the city’s water system  through a 20-year management contract. [Read more]

Massachusetts

Lee
Type: Public victory (prevented privatization)
Year: 2007
Summary: Lee residents organized and successfully stopped the privatization of their water system. The town selectmen overwhelmingly voted against 20-year management contract with Veolia. The next year, the town opened a new publicly controlled wastewater treatment plant that will keep raw sewage from flowing into the Housatonic River during storms and will protect the town’s water. [Read more]

Michigan

Detroit
Type: Ongoing (corporatization and privatization)
Summary: In September 2014, as part of the city’s ongoing bankruptcy, the mayor announced a plan to lease the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department to a newly created independent authority. This is a step toward privatization. [Read more]

Missouri

O’Fallon
Type: Public victory (prevented privatization and remunicipalization)
Year: 2009
Summary: In 2007, Sister Carol Boschert and other privatization opponents convinced the O’Fallon city council not to sell the city’s water system to American Water. Two years later, the city brought the operation, maintenance and management of its water and sewer systems in house after two and a half decades of private operation. [Read more]

St. Louis
Type: Public victory (prevented privatization)
Year: 2013

Summary: In 2012, two years after Veolia representatives initially toured St. Louis’s water utility, the company was set to receive a special type of consulting contract. Public opposition, however, caused the company to pull out of the deal. [
Read more]

Nebraska

Grand Island
Type: Public victory (prevented privatization)
Year: 2012
Summary: After strong public opposition, the city council voted against privatizing its sewer system unanimously rejecting a management contract with Veolia. [Read more] 

New Jersey

Franklin Township
Type: Public victory (prevented privatization)
Year: 2011
Summary: Because of public opposition, the township council voted against a management contract with Suez’s United Water. [Read more]

Newark
Type: Ongoing (corporatization)
Summary: Since the early 2000s, Newark residents have successfully fought to retain local control of their water system. They have repeatedly quashed proposals that would have turned their local water utility into an independent municipal utilities authority (MUA). In 2012, the Newark Water Group, a local community organization, won a major victory when the city council adopted their proposed ordinance requiring a public referendum before the creation of an MUA. [Read more]

Ramsey
Type: Public victory (prevented privatization)
Year: 2011
Summary: The borough council rejected all three bids for the sale of its water and sewer utility. [Read more]

Trenton
Type: Public victory (prevented privatization)
Year: 2010
Summary: Voters rejected selling part of the city’s water system to American Water. [Read more]

New York

Nassau County
Type: Case study
Summary: In 2014, two years after a financial oversight board stopped the county executive’s proposed long-term lease of the sewer system, the county approved a deal to have Suez’s United Water operate and manage the sewers for 20 years. [Read more]

Rockland County
Type: Ongoing (desalination)
Summary: The Rockland Water Coalition has organized to oppose United Water’s plan to build a desalination plant on the Hudson River. [Read more] 

Ohio

Akron
Type: Public victory (prevented privatization)
Year: 2008
Summary: Voters rejected leasing their sewer system to a private entity and amended the city charter to require a referendum on any future proposal to sell, lease or transfer the city’s utilities. [Read more]

Pennsylvania

Allentown
Type: Stopped privatization
Year: 2013
Summary: A grassroots community group fought the mayor’s proposal to privatize the city’s water and sewer systems for 50 years. Instead of privatization, the city leased its systems to a nonprofit public authority. 
Although this outcome is not perfect, Allentown residents avoided the rate gouging and other poor practices of the private water companies that also bid on the systems. [Read more]

Emmaus
Type: Public victory (prevented privatization)
Year: 2005
Summary: Paul Marin and his fellow Emmaus residents formed Emmaus Friends of Locally Owned Water and successfully stopped the proposed privatization of their water system. [Read more]

Knox
Type: Public victory (prevented privatization)
Year: 2007
Summary: Carol Weaver and her neighbors formed Knox Friends of Locally Owned Water and successfully stopped the sale of their water system. American Water and Aqua America were vying to takeover the system. [Read more] 

Washington

Orcas Highlands
Type: Ongoing (municipalization)
Summary: Voters approved annexing their community to the publicly owned Eastsound Sewer & Water District in 2008 after California Water Co. purchased their water system. The district has yet to purchase the system assets. [Read more] 

Wisconsin

Milwaukee
Type: Public victory (prevented water privatization)
Year: 2009
Summary: After public opposition, Milwaukee indefinitely tabled a proposal to lease the city’s drinking water system. [Read more]