Water for Profit

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Based on past experience in other countries, privatizing water carries risks. The water giants not only will raise rates to cover costs, critics say, but will use monopolies over water systems and rights to manipulate the system.

The World Bank requires about 1/3 of companies applying for loans to privatize their water operations. These companies have gained a foothold on every continent and within the next 15 years will control up to 75 percent of waterworks.

Though South Africa's biggest problem is water it is trying to end water subsidies, forcing millions to seek water from polluted rivers and lakes… Free water 'is not so good an idea,' managing director of Vivendi, 'It is better to ask people -- to pay something.' Free water, he said, 'gives the impression that water is free, service is free and you can use water as much as you want.'

In Argentina, a million new people were hooked up to the water system by 2000, which failed to live up to contractual commitments and vanished.

In the Philippines, two companies brought running water to thousands of poor people, then bailed out, leaving behind enormous debts.

In the 1970s Indonesia privatized its utilities - while the poor continued to live in the slums, without electricity or running water - 'the companies ... just came in and robbed everything that we had. —‘.

In Columbia, Cartagena privatized its municipal water company at the end of 1994. 'Following many years of chronic inefficiency, political interference and poor quality, the Mayor decided to liquidate the public utility,' after being offered $40 million loan for water reform.

The Spanish company Aguas de Barcelona won the 20-year contract but didn't take long to turn a profit. Bogotá's water utility started out in 1888 as a private company but went public in 1914. Now, the private companies want it back. The utility’s general manager: 'There are huge private interests after this company.'

In the U.S., private companies spent millions of dollars to sway Congressional votes on privatization laws. America's drinking water may not be so cheap or public for long.

In Canada, Hamilton was the first privatized large water utility - human waste, heavy metals and chemicals spilled into Hamilton harbor and Lake Ontario. Payen says 'Canada is a vast untapped market for profits.’. CUPE: ‘If Canadians were asked, they'd say we're absolutely against having water taken over by private corporations.'

In Australia after Adelaide privatized its water, high levels of Cryptosporidium and Giardia were found. More than 3 million residents were forced to boil their drinking water.

Private investors extracted millions in profits but they will not be held accountable, jobs are lost, quality wanes, causing outbreaks of cholera - killing untold numbers … millions of poor still do not have sewage, have had their water cut off, or evicted from their homes for not paying utility bills, which add up to 40 percent of their monthly income.

City manager of Pekin, Ill: 'Why does somebody need to make money on your water?’ 'Does somebody need to make money off the air you breathe? It is as simple as that.'

Resources:

http://www.publicintegrity.org/water/report.aspx?sID=ch&rID=44&aID=45
http://www.cbc.ca/news/features/water/
http://www4.worldbank.org/sprojects).

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Margot B