For Immediate Release
Kate Fried (202) 683.2500
Privatization No Cure-All for Infrastructure Woes
Repairing U.S Water Systems Could Boost Employment, Help Ravaged Economy
WASHINGTON - "The network of pipes that delivers water to U.S consumers spans 1.5 million miles, roughly the distance of three trips from Earth to the moon and back. They deliver this essential resource to more than 300 million citizens as they work, play and raise families. Yet much of this infrastructure is over 100 years old and in serious need of repair. Aging water and sewer pipes lead to myriad social and environmental problems, such as interruptions in water service, sewage overflows and polluted waterways. Meanwhile, the U.S. unemployment rate is running at its highest in five years and the nation's economy is wilting from the effects of bad mortgages, drooping consumer confidence and the Federal government's bailout of Wall Street's teetering financial giants. Yet, analysis by the consumer advocacy group Food & Water Watch finds that one billion dollars in federal infrastructure investment would create 47,500 jobs, $1.3 billion in worker income, prompting $6.1 billion in overall activity.
"As public utilities struggle financially to meet federal clean water standards and to maintain and modernize water systems, many policy makers are looking to corporations to take over these utilities in the hope that privatizing them will improve services and take the burden of upgrades and service delivery off the hands of economically struggling states and municipalities.
"The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the United States is falling short on water infrastructure spending by $22 billion a year. While the federal government's Clean Water State Revolving Fund, which administers money to states for clean water projects, contributes to this need, it often falls short of demand. Fiscal 2007 saw the Clean Water State Revolving Fund funded at some of the lowest levels in history, and for 2008 President George W. Bush requested states be given a mere $688 million-the lowest levels since the program's inception.
"State water infrastructure funding is contingent on federal contributions. For every federal dollar spent on clean water, approximately $1.28 is contributed to states and leveraged from bonds. But without sufficient federal money, states are faced with inadequate funds to address infrastructure repairs.
"Yet privatizing water systems is not the answer to our infrastructure woes. In fact, privatization only exacerbates issues relating to poor service delivery and infrastructure maintenance. Communities across the country have suffered from the empty promises of water-privatization profiteers. Whether in Highland Park, Michigan; Cave Creek, Arizona or Atlanta, Georgia, the results have been devastating. They include cost-cutting measures that jeopardize public safety, job cuts to essential staff, maintenance and water quality problems, lack of infrastructure investment, sewage spills, corruption, environmental degradation, outrageous rate hikes and political meddling.
"Almost across the board, private corporations deliver poorer service at a higher cost than do most public utilities. Surveys of U.S. utilities show that privately owned water utilities charge customers significantly higher water rates than their publicly owned counterparts charge -- anywhere from 13 percent to almost 50 percent more, according to an analysis by Food & Water Watch.
"Our water systems are thirsty for repairs and selling them off to private interests will only result in lining already fat corporate pockets. Why allow this essential natural resource to be auctioned off to the highest bidder? Americans already entrusted their housing to the market and what do we have to show for that apart from a ravaged economy and a 700 billion dollar bailout?
"Water is a resource essential for all, and because of that, needs to be kept in public hands. Public investment in water infrastructure systems will help upgrade aging pipes, deliver better service and protect the environment while giving our economy a much needed boost. Analysis by Food & Water Watch reveals that the total employment opportunities created by addressing all the state's waste water infrastructure alone would generate almost 2.17 million jobs. That is almost as many jobs as the 2.2 million increase in unemployed people over the past twelve months.
"We need to plan ahead for future generations and create a dedicated source of public funding so that communities across America can keep their water clean, safe and affordable. A Clean Water Trust Fund would realize this need while taking the burden of water infrastructure repairs off of over-taxed state and municipal coffers. We currently have trust funds for botanic gardens and wildlife habitat restoration, why not water?"