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Milwaukee Water System Lease Could Cost Community Millions Per Year
New Food & Water Watch Report Finds that Privatizing System Could Raise Consumer Rates and Limit Community Choice
“Well-run and highly monitored for pollutants, the Milwaukee Water Works is one of the city’s most valuable assets,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch. “While Milwaukeeans currently receive this high-quality water service at some of the lowest rates in the nation, all that will change if it is privatized. Private water utilities in Wisconsin charge 59 percent more than their public counterparts, often while cutting corners and sacrificing service quality to boost profits.”
Using industry trends and financial statements to analyze the potential water utility lease, the report finds that while such a deal could pump roughly half a million dollars into Milwaukee’s coffers, the city would abdicate all control of this vital public resource to a private entity—one more interested in profits than service. In addition to higher rates, this loss of public control would also reduce consumer choice and encourage sprawl—while possibly degrading service and water quality.
“In these times of economic crisis, it is important for cities to examine ways to raise revenue, but we must proceed with extreme caution when it comes to natural resources like water,” said State Senator Jim Sullivan (D-Wauwatosa). “Milwaukee should not fall prey to the empty promises of privatization. Water is life, not a commodity to auctioned off to the highest bidder.”
"Milwaukee's troubling fiscal situation calls for solutions that improve the community and protect its residents," said Milwaukee resident Corrinne Rosen, speaking on behalf of the Keep Public Our Water coalition. "This report shows that privatizing Milwaukee's water would cost the community millions and jeopardize the quality of municipal water service. Privatization is not a solution."
Privatizing Milwaukee’s water could also negatively impact the community because it will bind the city to one specific service provider for nearly a century. “The terms of the lease could restrict the city’s ability to respond to shifting social, economic and environmental circumstances,” noted Hauter. “A lease of the Milwaukee Water Works is simply not in the best interest of the community.”
Mortgaging Milwaukee’s Future: Why Leasing the Water System is a Bad Deal for Consumers is available online at: http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/milwaukee-water-report.