Every human being has the right to clean water. In the United States, water has long been considered a vital resource and thus managed in the public interest by local governments accountable to their constituents.
The mission of a public water system is simple: Deliver safe, clean and affordable water to you and your family. Public works projects funded and built our existing water infrastructure, which has served us well during the last century. But our water infrastructure is beginning to show signs of age. Pollution, decaying pipes, depleted aquifers and other problems pose real threats to the U.S. water supply and communities across the nation are looking for ways to bring water systems up to safe and modern standards.
Privatizing water systems, however, is not the answer. Private companies, seeking to extract profits from municipal water systems, dangle lofty promises in order to gain control of local water systems. Corporations want people to believe that only they can efficiently manage water systems.
They seek monopoly contracts to run water systems for generations, or to expand the outright corporate ownership of water supplies and infrastructure.
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Yet, from Atlanta to the United Kingdom to Huber Heights, Ohio, private water providers have charged higher rates, deteriorated water quality and failed to make assured investments. In fact, privatization failed so miserably in Atlanta that the city ousted United Water, only four years into a 20-year contract. Four years of broken promises and managerial debacles was more than enough.
Residents in many California communities are increasingly concerned with local water systems falling into the hands of a distant corporation. In Stockton, where city officials recently voted to privatize the public water system, citizens are responding by going door-to-door to collect signatures in an effort to nullify the City Council's decision.
I strongly believe that public control and public administration of the public's water supply is the only way to guarantee the universal human right of access to clean water. A grassroots movement of people is working to protect water from privatization by offering many alternative solutions to solve the global water crisis. Direct citizen participation should be encouraged when basic services such as water are being discussed. I hope that at the World Water Forum, which begins Sunday in Kyoto, Japan, this international movement of people will be heard.
For information on the World Water Forum, see www.world.water-forum3.com.