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The human right to water can only be truly realized if water is maintained as a public trust and public service.

While there is an important role for the private sector in laying pipelines, building infrastructure and exploring water purification technology, access to water must not be determined by private corporations seeking profit. Essential water services should be publicly financed, owned and operated. No one should be denied water services because of a lack of ability to pay for them.

The privatization of water services started in the late 1980s in Great Britain and the World Bank soon used private water companies to operate many water services it funded in the global South. With time, a number of powerful water utilities were taking over water services in many municipalities around the world, making billions in profit.

The problems started to mount and have been well documented. Private water companies must make a profit for their shareholders from essentially the same pot of funding available to a public non-profit utility. To make these profits, the companies cut corners on water quality protection, delivery of services and source water protection. They often lay off much of their work force and routinely raise water rates.

Washington-based Food and Water Watch reports that privately owned water companies in the US charged 59% more for drinking water services and 63% more for sewage services than public utilities. Water prices in England rose 40% in the first 15 years of privatization. Great Britain is dealing with the massive financial failure of its major private water companies.

The trend is reversing. Transnational Institute is a European based research centre promoting public water and other essential services. It monitors water privatizations around the world and reports that, since 2000, 334 municipalities that had privatized their water services have taken them back under public control.

In Canada, municipal water services are considered a public trust and, with very few exceptions, are operated under public management.

A few articles among millions, on the problems with water services privatization:

The wretched state of Thames Water is one of the best arguments for public ownership we have, by Mathew Lawrence of  The Guardian.

In charts: how privatisation drained Thames Water’s coffers, The Guardian.


By: Maude Barlow