Food & Water Watch and Local Activists Halt Privatization of Milwaukee Water System

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Kate Fried
(202) 683-4905
kfried@fwwatch.org

Food & Water Watch and Local Activists Halt Privatization of Milwaukee Water System

WASHINGTON -  “On Friday, the Milwaukee, Wisconsin Common Council announced that
it will put on hold plans to privatize the city’s drinking water
system. In May, Food & Water Watch worked with a broad range of
local groups to form the Keep Public Our Water (KPOW) coalition to stop
the privatization. Food & Water Watch applauds the Council’s
decision and urges the City of Milwaukee to permanently abandon this
potential privatization.

“Faced with budget pressures, Milwaukee had been considering leasing
its water utility to a private company for 75 to 99 years in return for
a one-time payment of up to $550 million to $600 million dollars. Yet
privatizing Milwaukee’s water is no silver bullet for its budgetary
shortfalls and doing so could have negative consequences for its
residents. The potential lease is nothing but an expensive loan that
would be repaid to the private company that buys the system by
Milwaukeeans through water bills, while the company raises rates in
order to guarantee its own profits. Studies show that customers of
privatized water systems in Wisconsin pay as much as $150 more a month
for service than those who receive their water from a public entity.
Further, they are also more likely to encounter water quality and
service problems. The affordability and integrity of this vital
resource should not be compromised in order to compensate for the
city’s financial problems. Doing so would lock Milwaukee into the deal
for close to a century, and residents would have very little control
over their water system or any problems that might arise from its
provider.

“Milwaukee’s water utility, which is already well-run and
well-maintained needs to remain public. While the tabling of the lease
is an early success for the people of Milwaukee, the fight is not over
yet. In April, the city began considering applications for a financial
advisor to steward the privatization plan, and it remains unclear if or
when that process will resume. Food & Water Watch and KPOW will
continue working to demonstrate public opposition to privatizing the
city’s water, and to ensure the continued access of safe, clean,
affordable water to all of its residents.”

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Food & Water Watch is a nonprofit consumer organization that works to ensure clean water and safe food. We challenge the corporate control and abuse of our food and water resources by empowering people to take action and by transforming the public consciousness about what we eat and drink.

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