International water privatization
The Rhode Island Green
"The world's water supply is being stolen,"
said Ben Manski, Wisconsin Green and co-chair of the Green
Party of the United States. "While attention has
focused on the invasion of Iraq and the economy, officials
at local, national, and international levels are quietly
transferring public ownership and control of fresh water
over to powerful corporations."
Greens point to evidence of the devastating economic
and ecological effects of water privatization: higher
prices and more frequent billing; neglected infrastructure;
increased use of concrete and steel in environmentally
harmful dams and pipes instead of measures to conserve
water; bribery of public officials and cronyism in the
awarding of contracts; wasteful salaries and bonuses for
water company execs.
"Public officials are handing control over fresh
water to corporations with little public knowledge or
comment," said Badili Jones, Georgia Green and also
a national party co-chair. "This is a matter of theft,
after generations of Americans and people in other countries
worked hard to build public water services."
According to leaked documents obtained and analyzed by
Center for Public Integrity's International Consortium
of Investigative Journalists, European Union trade representatives
have asked 72 countries to open up their markets to private
water companies during recent WTO negotiations.
Such a decision could turn control over U.S. water markets
not only to American firms, but to European corporations
such as Suez and Vivendi of France and the German-British
conglomerate RWE-Thames. Corporations already control
water systems used by more than 40 million people throughout
North America, including about 15% of U.S. water systems.
The mayor and city council of Stockton, California barred
public scrutiny of a contract to grant control over water
to OMI-Thames Water, a joint venture of American and British
firms, with the excuse that the $600 deal was too complex
for the public to understand.
"Deals like the one in Stockton prove that corporate
influence over politicians overrides the lessons learned
from Enron," said Alison "Sunny" Maynard,
Colorado Green Party co-chair and water lawyer who has
fought several cases to protect instream flows.
"The World Water Council and Global Water Partnership,
organizers of the World Water Forum in Kyoto, Japan in
March, expected those who attended to approve their plans
to privatize water around the world," said Annie
Goeke, co-chair of the Green Party's International Committee.
"But public interest activists rejected these plans,
and many instead signed on to the 'Water is Life' statement
affirming that drinking water is a human right not to
be placed under corporate ownership.
The IMF has imposed water privatization on many nations
in order to spur investment. The result has been skyrocketing
fees, greater poverty, and disease, including a cholera
epidemic in Ghana among those who couldn't afford to buy
clean drinking water. In Cochabamba, Bolivia, ownership
of public water was transferred to a subsidiary of California-based
Bechtel Group in 2000, which imposed a 200% rate hike
equal to one quarter of the income of low-income citizens.
In South Africa, poor families get their water cut off
when they can't pay the bills.
"Bechtel has been granted a multibillion-dollar
postwar contract in Iraq, where it will gain enormous
political leverage during the U.S. occupation," added
Maynard. "We have no doubt that U.S.-based companies
like Bechtel are eyeing Iraq's valuable Tigris and Euphrates