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More Evidence That Food & Water Watch’s Claims About Rates Are Faulty

According to Food & Water Watch (FWW), private water companies take over water systems so they can increase rates with no restrictions or accountability. According to the group’s own analysis, “after privatization, water rates increase at about three times the rate of inflation.”[1] File that “three times the rate of inflation” claim away. We’ll get back to it in a minute.

This narrative is wrong on so many levels, and not just because water rates for private systems are regulated and set by state public utility commissions. But there is something else FWW isn’t talking about when it tries to claim that water rates go up under private operations. The truth is that water rates are going up across the board – for both public and private water systems – in order to fund much-needed water infrastructure investments. Further, it is short-sighted to applaud low rates when the consequence is that the water system may fail. Communities that ensure their water rates support the necessary investments in their water systems should be commended.

A recent report from Bluefield Research shows that the largest publicly-owned utilities are increasing water rates at 5.7% annually.[2] Yes, you guessed it. That’s exactly three times the current rate of inflation. While FWW criticizes private utilities for increasing water rates at three times the rate of inflation, they say nothing about public utilities that are increasing rates at the exact same pace.

If FWW wants to blindly criticize rate increases – including those that fund infrastructure investments to protect against major public health disasters – then they should at least be consistent and criticize both private and public water systems.  Because as the Bluefield data proves, rate increases are not just a private water phenomenon.


[1] Food & Water Watch, “Water Privatization: Facts and Figures” Aug. 2015
[2] Bluefield Research, “U.S. Municipal Water and Wastewater Utility Bill Index, 2017” 19 June 2017
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