Private Water is Distorted in a Letter to Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter
The Philadelphia City Paper recently published an article about a letter sent to Mayor Michael Nutter from activist groups including Food & Water Watch and Corporate Accountability International. The letter pressures city officials to avoid even just considering private water options to address the city’s water and wastewater needs. Truth from the Tap not only does letter make false claims and misrepresentations without presenting any evidence, it also cites two case studies that are infamous for their flawed and misleading analysis.
According to the article, the activists’ letter claims that privatization of water systems leads to higher water rates and costs for consumers – a tired, repeated claim that has been constantly disproven. This is a matter of basic fact: no matter whether a water system is public or private, rates are set and approved by a public authority – something you can learn more about on the Truth from the Tap website. These public authorities base rates on the cost of running the water system. Rates are simply not set at the whim of a private company, period.
Activists also make false claims on the impact of private water models on jobs. The record shows that local jobs are retained at equal or improved pay – and collective bargaining agreements are respected – when water systems engage private partners. And to the benefit of these workers, private water companies spend 2-3 times more on training and development for their employees compared to publicly run water systems.
Activists cite case studies from Indianapolis and Atlanta to support their claims. However, these activist case studies have already been torn apart and discredited:
- Indianapolis: Critics like to talk about a 2005 ‘investigation’ into Veolia’s water quality reports, but fail to mention that this inquiry was informal and quickly dropped without charges being filed. Furthermore, after exiting the Veolia contract, the Indianapolis water system experienced job cuts, worker benefit cuts and rate hikes, increasing water bills by 10 percent and sewer bills by 47 percent.
- Atlanta: Activists like to pin boil water alerts on United Water, yet both the state and city governments recognize that these alerts were caused by events beyond the company’s control (power outages at pump stations due to storms). Since being placed back under public control, Atlanta’s water system has been plagued with problems, from skyrocketing water rates to faulty meters and erratic billings. As of 2011, Atlanta had the highest water rates of any major U.S. city, and inconsistent and incorrect billings have even led to a class-action lawsuit against the city.
While activists may blindly and incorrectly celebrate these and other failed ‘remunicipalizations,’ Truth from the Tap knows that more than 2,000 private water partnerships are being renewed at a 97% rate across the United States – a clear testament to the value and proven success of private water solutions.
If Philadelphia is seriously looking at options to improve its water system, they need to know the truth about private water, not the same old misleading scare tactics pushed by Food & Water Watch and Corporate Accountability International.