The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release
Contact: Email:,info(at)fwwatch(dot)org,Seth Gladstone -,

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

Milwaukee, Wisc.

Leasing the Milwaukee Water Works to a
private company for 99 years could cost the Milwaukee community a total of $17
million to $31 million a year, finds a new report released today by the
national consumer advocacy group Food & Water Watch. Entitled Mortgaging
Milwaukee's Future: Why Leasing the Water System is a Bad Deal for Consumers,
the report reveals that for every dollar the city receives from an endowment
from the lease of the Water Works, consumers could have to pay as much as $5.40
in water bills.

"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:

Food & Water Watch mobilizes regular people to build political power to move bold and uncompromised solutions to the most pressing food, water, and climate problems of our time. We work to protect people's health, communities, and democracy from the growing destructive power of the most powerful economic interests.

(202) 683-2500