Privatization: Water quality problems

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From the Circle of Blue Waternews (Steve Kellman):

What convinces a city to consider giving up control of its water in the first place? Some officials believe the private sector can do a better job maintaining and upgrading a leaky and inefficient water system. Others see an opportunity to leverage a successful water system and its guaranteed cash flow from its customers — city residents — to win a large up-front payment from a private firm. That money can then be used to plug budget shortfalls in other departments. Experts who have watched failed experiments in the privatization of municipal water systems say both beliefs are wrong.

John Keesecker, a senior organizer for the non-profit consumer organization Food & Water Watch, works with community groups across the United States to prevent the privatization of public water resources. “Our number one concern with systems that are privatized is that service goes down and there’s poor water quality,” Keesecker said. “There’s also less accountability and transparency, because at the end of the day these companies are beholden to shareholders and their concern is primarily with making a return and not with providing a good service.”

“When it’s publicly managed, council members or aldermen can be voted out if it’s not being managed well but that’s not the case when it’s been privatized. Voting them out won’t necessarily change the way the water system operates.”

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