How Opponents Get It Wrong The Many Ways Activist Groups Get It Wrong On Private Water

Provide Partial Timelines

Critics of water company solutions rely on partial timelines and ignore events that contradict their claims. In Atlanta, critics pointed to rate increases during the time a water company ran the system. However, once the system was back under government operation, water rates spiked 233 percent over the next 11 years. This fact is conveniently ignored by critics. In Felton, California, residents were praised for ousting the water company in response to a proposed rate increase deemed necessary by the PUC. Yet under government operation, the city has raised rates four times in six years – another fact ignored by critics. 1

Present Biased Evidence

Critics of water companies rely on cherry-picked information and ignore independent reports that counter their one-sided and inaccurate view. For example, critics claimed that a public-private water partnership in Indianapolis resulted in $50 million in lost benefits for non-union employees, yet a city audit found that total non-union compensation actually increased. 2

Ignore Essential Facts

Critics of water companies routinely ignore essential and well-documented facts. Critics cited unfulfilled work orders by a water company in Atlanta as evidence of poor service. However, they don’t mention that the City didn’t provide the company with a full picture of the disrepair in the water system. As a result, the company was forced to complete 3-8 times more annual repairs than estimated under the agreed upon contract. 3

Spin False Narratives

Critics of water companies create false narratives about public opposition to proposed solutions. In New Orleans, critics claimed a contract bid fell through “due to public outrage.” In reality, the proposal was rejected because opponents of the contract on the Sewerage & Water Board deliberately called for a last-minute vote when supporters were not in attendance. The New Orleans Times-Picayune described the resulting vote as “a coup orchestrated by opponents on the board,” noting that otherwise the proposal would have been approved. 4

Cite Made-Up Statistics

Critics of water companies rely on “projected savings” under government operations and do not include actual outcomes in their material. Ideological opposition groups in Gary, Indiana, projected that the city would save $8 million if the water system was under local government control. This figure was central to the campaign against water company solutions in Gary. However, in reality, under government control the city’s wastewater and sewage system costs increased by nearly $5 million per year. 5

Incorrectly Assign Blame

Critics blindly blame water companies for all system issues even when the evidence finds another party responsible. In 2002, a water company operation in Atlanta was criticized for having five “boil water” alerts, even though power issues – not water system issues – caused the alerts. In New Jersey, critics blamed a water company for the Camden water system having nearly $5 million in unpaid customer bills. In reality, the state auditor found that the city – not the company – was responsible for not collecting on the unpaid bills. 6

From the Toolkit

The Water Activist Network

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Protecting the Failing Status Quo

Protecting the Failing Status Quo

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How Critics Get it Wrong on the
Private Water Industry

How Critics Get it Wrong on the Private Water Industry

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Where Are They Now?

Where Are They Now?

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How Utilities Policy gets it
Wrong on Municipal Utilities

How Utilities Policy gets it Wrong on Municipal Utilities

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Activists Rush to Protect Failing Status Quo in Baltimore

Activists Rush to Protect Failing Status Quo in Baltimore

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Why Water Rate Comparisons are Bogus

Why Water Rate Comparisons are Bogus

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Water Activists Exposed

Water Activists Exposed

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Food & Water Watch’s
Activist Misinformation

Food & Water Watch’s Activist Misinformation

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Sources:

  1. Food & Water Watch, “Case Study – Atlanta, Georgia,” Nov. 2009; “USA TODAY analysis: Nation’s water costs rushing higher,” USA Today, 9/27/12; Food and Water Watch, “An Overview of the Successful Public Purchase of the Felton Water System,” Nov. 2013; Jim Mueller, Testimony, Monterey Water Forum, 2/28/11
  2. Food & Water Watch, “Veolia Water North America: A Corporate Profile,” Aug. 2013; “Employee benefit assessments paint different pictures,” Indianapolis Business Journal, 8/4/03
  3. Food & Water Watch, “Case Study – Atlanta, Georgia,” Nov. 2009; “Winning Bidder Will Face Debt, Backlog, and Major Upgrades,” Atlanta Journal Constitution, 8/23/98; “The Atlanta Privatization: What Can We Learn?” Geoffrey Segal, Georgia Public Policy Foundation, 1/21/03
  4. Food & Water Watch, “A Closer Look: Veolia Environment,” Sept. 2010; “Water privatization idea killed,” New Orleans Times-Picayune, 10/17/02; “S&WB sell-off is sunk, Nagin says,” New Orleans Times-Picayune, 4/20/04
  5. Food & Water Watch, “United Water Can’t Be Trusted,” March 2012; City of Gary, 2012 Financial Statement and Federal Single Audit Report, filed 9/30/13; United Water, “United Water And Gary Sanitary District Sign Five-Year Extension For Wastewater Contract,” Press Release, 5/27/08
  6. Alliance for Democracy, “Water for People and Nature: The Story of Corporate Water Privatization” April 2003; Letter from Georgia Department of Natural Resources to Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin, 10/11/02; New Jersey Office of the State Comptroller, “A Performance Audit of the Management Services Agreement for the City of Camden’s Water and Wastewater Collection Systems,” 12/16/09; Letter from United Water to the Office of the State Comptroller, 12/4/09