The Battle for Water…

It’s not just Bechtel in Bolivia. The efforts to privatize everything from the media, to historic landmarks, prisons, schools, public lands and even the voting system that controls our democracy has made significant gains in the “business” of providing municipal water within the United States.

In neighboring Illinois things are getting ugly. Several towns that once thought it was smart to cut their expenses by placing the responsibility for municipal water supplies in the hands of private companies have changed their minds. Angry citizens with huge monthly bills payable to RWE, a German firm aptly named American Water has communities up in arms…

“About 15 percent of America’s water business is now in private ownership,” says Chicago Tribune reporter E.A. Torriero in a May 28, 2006 article. “Those ranks have tripled in the last decade as cash-strapped cities seek ways to upgrade aging water systems by turning to private firms.”

But now, a half-dozen Illinois communities – Pekin, Champaign, Urbana, Homer Glen, Orland Park and Bolingbrook – are bent on forcing Illinois American to the bargaining table, joining in a battle that Peoria has been fighting for 7 years.

American Water, once an “American” company was purchased by RWE in 2001 for $7.5 billion. They now have 1,800 operations in 29 states: Arizona, California, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia – plus three Canadian provinces, serving 18 million people and generating $2.2 billion in revenues.

In Illinois grassroots groups are forming reports Torriero, “…to exchange battle plans, hold rallies and plot strategies. Busloads of angry suburban residents descended on Springfield this spring, demanding legislative help.”

“The backlash has split towns, torn apart councils and spawned court fights that landed in state supreme courts,” says Torriero.

E.A. Torriero’s article in the Tribune, “Pressure turned up in the war on water – Towns push to make service public again,” provides a wake up call for Wisconsin communities struggling to balance their budgets.

Water for People and Nature: The Story of Corporate Water Privatization” is a power point presentation developed by the Sierra Club’s Corporate Accountability Committee as an educational tool for interested citizens and activists wishing to learn more about water privatization issues and for use by communities mobilizing to prevent corporate privatization of their water services and resources.

Wake Up Ohio warns of “…a creeping shift toward proprietary claims on our Commons. This creep has most recently manifested itself in attempts by the large telecom companies to lobby for the privatization of the Internet. The Ports uproar… Now Exxon-Mobil is using its record windfall profits to fund junk-science to smear what scientists across the globe know for certain, that the earth is warming and American fossil fuel consumption leads the sorry list of probable causes.”

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