is a Matter of Public Debate
by Dennis Kucinich
San Francisco Chronicle
Every human being has the right to clean water. In the United
States, water has long been considered a vital resource
and thus managed in the public interest by local governments
accountable to their constituents.
The mission of a public water system is simple: Deliver
safe, clean and affordable water to you and your family.
Public works projects funded and built our existing water
infrastructure, which has served us well during the last
century. But our water infrastructure is beginning to
show signs of age. Pollution, decaying pipes, depleted
aquifers and other problems pose real threats to the U.S.
water supply and communities across the nation are looking
for ways to bring water systems up to safe and modern
Privatizing water systems, however, is not the answer.
Private companies, seeking to extract profits from municipal
water systems, dangle lofty promises in order to gain
control of local water systems. Corporations want people
to believe that only they can efficiently manage water
They seek monopoly contracts to run water systems for
generations, or to expand the outright corporate ownership
of water supplies and infrastructure.
Yet, from Atlanta to the United Kingdom to Huber Heights,
Ohio, private water providers have charged higher rates,
deteriorated water quality and failed to make assured
investments. In fact, privatization failed so miserably
in Atlanta that the city ousted United Water, only four
years into a 20-year contract. Four years of broken promises
and managerial debacles was more than enough.
Residents in many California communities are increasingly
concerned with local water systems falling into the hands
of a distant corporation. In Stockton, where city officials
recently voted to privatize the public water system, citizens
are responding by going door-to-door to collect signatures
in an effort to nullify the City Council's decision.
I strongly believe that public control and public administration
of the public's water supply is the only way to guarantee
the universal human right of access to clean water. A
grassroots movement of people is working to protect water
from privatization by offering many alternative solutions
to solve the global water crisis. Direct citizen participation
should be encouraged when basic services such as water
are being discussed. I hope that at the World Water Forum,
which begins Sunday in Kyoto, Japan, this international
movement of people will be heard.
Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, is the ranking member of
the House National Security, Veterans Affairs and International
Relations Subcommittee. For information on the World Water
Forum, see www.world.water-forum3.com.