Water privatization is a growing global issue that has already negatively affected communities around the world, including American communities, and will continue to do so if left unaddressed. Private water companies are taking advantage of poverty stricken towns to relinquish control over their water and sewer systems. This practice leads to comprising the quality of drinking water and raising its costs by almost 100 percent the normal rate.
This issue has already affected England and Wales for the past 25 years and its results are a foreboding of what will happen if this became a widespread phenomenon. In 1989 Margaret Thatcher privatized the water supply, claiming it would provide more benefits for consumers and decrease government deficit, neither of which has happened. Water bills in these countries rose enormously due to consumers being billed by consumption rather than a flat rate each month. The failure of this system was felt particularly hard in 2009 to 2010 when these nations citizens suffered a major water poverty crisis, and these numbers are expected to double by 2033 (World Socialist Web Site).
One of the instigators to this problem is the World Bank and International Monetary Fund who are pressuring other governments to follow suit. When Bolivia gave into such pressure their water prices rose 35%(Aid Democracy). Corporations such as Nestle, Coca-Cola and Pepsi, however, are the biggest offenders in the global arena thus far in water privatization. Coca Cola has been practicing this in India since 2000, taking over 1.5 million liters from community wells and aquifers (Water Health Educator). In one small town in Pakistan, Bhati Dilwan, Nestle drained so much of the portable water supply for these residents that the town councilor reported that children were getting sick by the contaminated water leftover. Chairman of Nestle, Peter Brabeck, has even been quoted as saying that “water is not a human right, it is a privilege” (Global Research). Not surprising that a person with such a low level of compassion should say that considering any community with its own independent water supply is depriving this morally corrupt company of lucrative profits for its bottled water division known as Pure Life. This deranged quote also comes from the same person who said if he could he would privatize air as well.
In essence, water privatization leads to the manufacturing of bottled water from such corporations as the ones mentioned above. When a bottle of water is purchased (which is of no higher quality than tap water) two things are bound to occur. To produce the bottles themselves takes 17.6 gallons of oil for one year of US consumption alone, and once they are discarded are shipped off to landfills in developing countries, increasing pollution and running natural ecosystems in that area. The second thing that is occurring is that companies like Nestle and Coca Cola, who average about 4 billion in annual sales, are able to make profit off the same quality of water at 100 the cost to the consumer (Aid Democracy). By using false advertising they are able to take advantage of people, coercing them to pay for water which is available to them for much less in their homes. And they are able to successfully get away with these egregious acts’ using a method called fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, which is namely drilling for water. This practice leads to toxic waste, hazardous air pollution, and long term risks to vital water supplies. Besides aiding in the destruction of the environment, it also aids the deprivation of water to 1 billion people on earth, 66% of whom live on less than 2 dollars a day (Water Health Educator).
Since 2010, water rates in Detroit have skyrocketed 119 percent while median household incomes have diminished by 15 percent (World Socialist Web Site). Authorities in Detroit have already begun to shut off water services- to be exact, 3,000 households each month, and will continue to do so. At this rate, by the beginning of summer, tens of thousands of families will no longer have access to water, a basic human right. The Detroit Water and Sewage System has been targeting those households who are late on their water bills, which equals about 50 percent of DWSS customers, in a city where upwards of 30 percent of its population lives below the poverty line (World Socialist Web Site). This would only worsen the poverty rate as a result of putting the economic burden on the suffering population in Detroit, who could expect to see worse service and at least a 10% increase per year in costs (World Socialist Web Site).
Furthermore, a major piece of legislation that passed recently called TAFTA (Trans-Atlantic Free Trade Agreement), made between the European Union and the US, will make it easier for foreign corporations to profit off of our public water supply. One example of this law in action is the success of United Water, who service over 5.7 million people in this country, and who also happen to be a subsidiary of Suez Environmental, the 2nd largest private water company in the world. The CEO of this French based company has been quoted as saying that its “efficient product would normally be free” and that “it’s our job to sell it, as it is necessary to life”(Aid Democracy). However, American based companies are of no higher standard. American Water, the largest publicly traded US water utility company, has a poor reputation of not only higher service rates to its customers but higher rates of endangerment to public health. Starting in 2008, residents of Felton, California saw costs raise an average of 49 dollars to 145 dollars a month per household (Food And Water Watch).
So how can we, the people, put an end to this socially unjust, corrupt corporate practice? A great first step would be to boycott all Nestle, Coca-Cola, and Pepsi products. As the buyer, our dollar and how we use it speaks volumes to these companies who are only concerned with profit at all costs. Standing up to private companies in your town, and encouraging your neighbors to do the same, is another great way to reduce the success of this practice. Organizing debates, discussions, demonstrations or even showing a movie relevant to this topic at a local theatre can be effective in engaging and informing your community. Social media platforms such as blogs, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter are also a great way to spread the word as well. Bringing clean water and sanitation to everyone in the world would cost 10 billion dollars, which between all the richest countries in the world isn’t a fraction of what is spent on defense spending and the military occupation of developing nations. Together we can use our voice, and our dollar, as a nation to send a message to our government and the corporations; stop water privatization!