When private corporations own water systems, residents often pay high water rates and suffer poor customer service. That’s why communities frequently organize to purchase their water systems and bring them into public hands.
FLOW Florida, spearheaded by the late Frank Reams, is an example of a successful statewide effort against a private water company. FLOW Florida formed as a coordinated response to resident complaints about the terrible service and high rates of the Florida arm of Aqua America. Within a few short years, the public campaign scared the company out of the state.
Florida residents reached out to their state officials to put pressure on regulators and the company. As a result, the state substantially reduced the company’s proposed rate increases and enhanced its monitoring of the company’s service. In early 2012, the state also passed legislation creating a study committee on large investor-owned water utilities.
These efforts have paid off, probably by making it less profitable for the company to do business in the state. In March 2013, Aqua America sold most of its Florida systems to the Florida Governmental Utility Authority, a publicly owned entity. Throughout 2013, the company sold off its remaining water systems to an assortment of other entities.