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December 13, 2023
Water

People’s Water Project Calls on Biden to Reject Privatization Recommendations

This statement was originally released by the People’s Water Project, a coalition Corporate Accountability is proud to be part of. Learn more about the PWP here.

The President’s National Infrastructure Advisory Council wants to “remove barriers to privatization” of public water systems

The National Infrastructure Advisory Council’s recent recommendations would make it easier for private water corporations to access key public funds and place communities at further risk of water privatization. This is dangerous because water privatization removes public control and community oversight of water systems, jeopardizing public accountability. For communities, privatization has all too often led to unaffordable water bills and cost-cutting measures that endanger public health and safety.

“Water privatization is a terrible idea,” says Mary Grant, Public Water for All Campaign Director at Food & Water Watch. “Wall Street wants to take control of our public water systems to wring profits from communities that are already struggling with unaffordable water bills and toxic water. Privatization would deepen the nation’s water crises, leading to higher water bills and less accountable and transparent services. Instead of relying on Wall Street advisers, President Biden should support policies that will truly help communities by asking Congress to pass the Water Affordability, Transparency, Equity and Reliability (WATER) Act (HR 1729, S 938).”

It’s no surprise that the advisory council made these recommendations, considering its ties to the private water industry, most notably, Veolia, Suez, and Essential Utilities, which have long track records of abuse across the country. Corporations like these would stand to benefit from the privatization of our nation’s water systems, at the expense of residents, workers, and communities.

Private water corporations are beholden to maximizing profits for shareholders, not acting in the public interest. Studies have found that privatization leads to “higher water prices and less affordability for low-income families,” and that privately-owned utilities charge 59% more for drinking water service than publicly-owned utilities. Corporate cost-cutting measures can have terrible consequences for communities. In Pittsburgh, while under the management of Veolia, the city’s water authority switched the corrosion control chemical meant to prevent lead contamination to a cheaper alternative without the required state approval. A lead crisis soon followed, endangering residents throughout the city.

“Access to clean water is a fundamental right, not a privilege to be bought and sold. Water privatization is a stark reminder of the immorality and discrimination that can arise when basic human needs are treated as commodities,” says Rachel Dawn Davis, Public Policy & Justice Organizer for Waterspirit. “By allowing profit-driven entities to control this vital resource, we perpetuate a system that prioritizes financial gain over the well-being and dignity of individuals and communities. It is a disheartening reflection of a society that values profit margins over human rights, and it is our collective moral responsibility to challenge and rectify this profound injustice. We strongly urge the Biden administration to act toward long term investments to safeguard what remains of sacred water.”

“Water is our first medicine; local water sources have protected its populations relying on them for millenia and are critical for every living thing. Privatizing water and water systems is an injustice that threatens to exacerbate existing environmental, economic, and health injustices. Elite capture of our water commons is the final frontier in the commodification of all living things and should be resisted as though our lives depend upon the water we drink. We demand that the Biden Administration reject the privatization of our public water systems and instead reinvest and reinforce our responsibility to them,” states Nickie Sekera, Co-founder of Community Water Justice.

“Water is a public resource, and should remain a publicly-controlled resource. For the Biden Administration to place several members on its National Infrastructure Advisory Council (NIAC) that are or have been directly tied to private water companies that generate billions of dollars in revenue is a travesty to public trust,” says Rebecca Malpass, Director of Policy & Research for The Water Collaborative of Greater New Orleans. This is yet another example of placing profits over people. While NIAC touts privatization as the solution to innovation, communities know all too well that, in reality, privatization leads to unaffordable and, in some instances, unsafe water services with no public accountability or transparency.”

Instead, we call on President Biden to support the Water Affordability, Transparency, Equity, and Reliability (WATER) Act in Congress (HR 1729, S 938), which would fully invest in our nation’s water infrastructure, address lead and PFAS contamination, expand funding for low-income and rural communities, and prioritize funding for publicly-owned water systems.

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The People’s Water Project is a group of organizers, researchers, lawyers, advocates, and community members working together to combat water inequities and fight for bold, reparative changes that challenge corporate power and address issues of water affordability and accessibility, water quality and water privatization in low income and BIPOC communities.


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