GRWA’s thoughts on privatization of public liquid assets

Published 6:06 pm Tuesday, April 3, 2012

To the Editor:
Access to fresh, clean water is a basic human right and the most basic of all government community services to provide for it, and is certainly in our common best public interest to be the ones in control of it and good stewards of it if we want it to remain clean and continue to sustain our communities for years to come.
How we value and plan to use, allocate and manage our local watershed resources are vital decisions to be made by the local people (and our duly elected government officials) for the local people.
Under public ownership, we all are accountable to develop our future public water system (a watershed plan) in an effective, smart and environmentally sound manner, as it will ultimately determine the direction of our community’s growth.
This is our public responsibility, our “job,” and our reward will be life-sustaining water for our communities and for the generations to come.
Now is the time to recognize that this vital task belongs to us and we need to have the fortitude to get this work done for our own sakes.
In contrast, NI America’s “job,” or the job of any other private investor-owned water corporation, for that matter, will be to simply “profit” from selling our region’s water, period. As for their reward – they will be smiling all the way to the bank!
To privatize our resources is to hand over all local control and local representation concerning these vital decisions to an entity that does not care about protecting, valuing or conserving our precious water for our community, but rather wants to sell as much of it as possible, for as much as possible to any and all nearby customers in need (including out of state customers). NI America already owns systems and has a customer base in Columbia, S.C.
Food and Water Watch, a Washington, D.C. based organization, studied the effects of water system privatization and found among some 5,000 water utilities and 1,900 sewer utilities that the private entities charged up to 80 percent more for water and 100 percent more for sewer services due to their fiduciary obligation to shareholders.
It was also found that operation and maintenance costs of privatized water systems increased 20-30 percent due to dividend, taxes and profit responsibilities.
Note that public utilities are exempt from income and property taxes with a sole concern for high profit margins; it follows, there is little room or incentive for things like water conservation efforts, proper maintenance, timely repairs and good customer service.
As our rural communities, towns and county are grappling with decisions, plans and strategies for our future water supplies and infrastructure, let us not be short sighted or underestimate the value of our region’s water resources and the many opportunities they can afford us in becoming a self-reliant and successful community (that would be a very costly mistake).
Let’s keep it within our local public hands, amid our public concern and out of corporate hands/ control and their lack of local concern.
– Sky Conard, founder of Green River Watershed Alliance