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Water Privatization - or rather Corporatization

October 30th, 2008 by Renée Hoyos

I was fortunate to spend last weekend at the Omega Center in upstate New York with environmentalists from all over the U.S. to discuss water issues that are on the horizon. Of major concern was the corporatization of water. Industries for years have been trying to get into the water game and the results have been bad to tragic. Many communities across the United States have encountered increased rates and decreased service as corporations bow to the bottom line instead of the public interest. Turning on the tap and getting air instead of water is not something Americans are used to nor should it be expected in a first world nation.

As you’ve read in Dana’s post, we have seen the threat writ large in Giles County. That community has been fighting an assault on their precious spring for almost two years. Last week they had a win. But Ice River Springs and their cohorts will be back. Maybe in your community.

This is how they operate. They look for rural, cash strapped communities that have springs or headwaters. They approach the County Commission or similar governing body with promises to improve existing infrastructure or create new treatment plants, filter water and sell it back to the community guaranteed as safe. They will also bottle the rest and sell it outside the area and sometimes outside the country, thereby providing jobs and increased income to the community. Sounds good? It is too good to be true and so it is not.

This is generally what happens. The company will lay off half of the existing employees at the drinking water plant if there is one. If they build, they will not hire the amount of people they say they will. Remember it is about the bottom line, not resource management. When the company has financial trouble they will skimp on infrastructure improvements and other forms of upkeep. When the company goes into bankruptcy, the community will have no water. It will simply be turned off. Once the community wakes up to these realities, it is left with very difficult choices. It must either buy out the remaining contract in an attempt to get the spring/facility back into public hands. If the company is an international company, the company can sue the community under Chapter 13 of NAFTA.

Giles County dodged a bullet last week and the community continues to be vigilant about corporatization of the Campbellville Spring. If you have a resource in your community, do all you can to keep it in public hands, not private. If you hear of a company making promises to your community leaders about privatizing your water, call us immediately. We will help you keep your resource in public hands so that the public will always have control of the most precious resource we need to live - WATER.



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