Water for People, Not for Profit
May 29, 2014 01:34PM
By Mark Walsh
It isn’t often that one stops to reflect on how we interact with water and, especially, how our relationship with water is manipulated by various forces. In America, many take for granted that fresh, clean water is constantly available. Very rarely do we even consider the source of this life-giving resource.
Most Americans have never walked five miles to collect water for cooking and cleaning, which is commonplace in many developing countries. Across the globe, 1.6 million people die annually due to waterborne diseases, yet we take clean water for granted. We shouldn’t—corporations certainly don’t.
Corporations have recognized the value of water and have been quietly taking over water systems across the globe. In New Jersey alone, nearly half of the public water systems have already been taken over by private, profit-driven companies.
Private water companies are preying on municipal budget shortfalls and enticing elected officials with infusions of cash in exchange for control or ownership of drinking water systems. The funds might enable a mayor to claim a year or two of reduced property taxes, but on average private water companies in New Jersey charge about 33 percent more for drinking water than public utilities. This amounts to what is essentially a “tax through the tap” of increased water bills.
Along with higher costs, private water means less public oversight and control. It means that a board of directors, perhaps meeting in a faraway county, essentially replaces the local mayor and legislators. These companies have no accountability to public records or meeting laws, closing the public out of important decisions about their drinking water. Most importantly, under this veil of secrecy, private water companies make decisions intent on maximizing profits, not acting in the best interests of the local community.
Private water companies make greater profits when more people are purchasing more water. This can create pressure to increase unnecessary development and water usage. Private water companies have an incentive to forego routine maintenance of water systems because undergoing capital investments are often more profitable than fixing problems. Private water interests also have an incentive to cut corners which might be good for their bottom line but can threaten public health and the environment.
The next time you take a drink of water, consider the system you’re dealing with. The town of Haddonfield is currently accepting bids to sell its water system to a private company.
Take action now by calling on Haddonfield Mayor Jeff Kasko to stop the sale of its water at 856-429-4700 ext. 316. Then find out how you can join HOW– Haddonfield’s Own Water campaign by calling Food & Water Watch Organizer Emily Reuman at 732-839-0878 or emailing [email protected].