Who Hijacked Our Country

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

YOUR Drinking Water is Endangered

Chances are, your water supply is handled by a municipal or county utility. If so, try to keep it that way, for your sake.

Across America, this is slowly changing. This is NOT good.

Right now, 15% of Americans have their water supply owned and controlled by a private company (usually a multinational corporation with no stake in the local community). Now 15% may seem small, but this percentage has tripled in the past few years.

In a lot of Third World countries, the water supply has been privatized by global corporations. In almost every case, prices go through the roof, quality and service go down, and nobody seems to be accountable or available if there’s a problem.

In the most famous/infamous case, Bechtel purchased the water supply in Bolivia a few years ago. Prices doubled (Bolivia is South America’s poorest country) and eventually there were massive protests and riots threatening the entire country. Out of desperation, the Bolivian government cancelled their contract with Bechtel.

And now this cancer is creeping into America.

I first heard of this phenomenon about fifteen years ago. The town of Bodega Bay, CA “sold” its water supply to a private owner in Naples, FL. Suddenly everyone’s water bills tripled and quadrupled, service was “spotty” (to put it kindly) and nobody ever seemed to be available to help with problems.

At the time, this seemed like such a bizarre situation; I had no idea this would become a trend.

Currently the most high-profile battle is taking place in Illinois. More than a million Illinois residents have their water supply owned and operated by RWE, a German conglomerate. One woman, complaining about her $800 water bill, said “Everything we hear is double-talk. Should we call Germany to get the answers we need?”

Last month the mayor of Urbana, IL did exactly that. She flew to Germany to chastise executives and shareholders of RWE. She said “I fired a diplomatic shot across the bow. I was there to show the flag and to let them know that Americans are offended by foreign intervention and corporate bullying. After all, it’s our water, not theirs.”

Across the country, local governments have spent millions of dollars in legal battles and referendums, trying to reclaim their water supply from RWE. Since RWE has a multi-million dollar arsenal of lawyers and PR hacks, they usually win.

RWE of course puts its own spin on things: “government piracy” versus “free enterprise.” A company attorney has described these battles as “Zee communities lose and zee company loses.”

In Monterey, CA and Chattanooga, TN, among other places, RWE has spent millions of dollars to defeat local referendums for taking back their water supply.

Illinois has now passed a state law making it easier for communities to take back their water supplies from corporate owners. The legislation hasn’t yet been signed by the governor.

Like cancer, this corporate takeover of our water (and God knows what’ll be next) is easier to prevent than to cure. If your water supply is still owned by a local government, do whatever you can to keep it that way. Stay on top of things and do what you have to do to keep your drinking water out of the hands of robber barons.

cross-posted at Bring It On!


Anonymous James said...

We are on a path where very resource on earth will be owned by one giant mega coporation. Aol/Time Warner/Coke/Disney will own the water and the very air you breathe will carry a tax.

More prrof that the free market unchecked and without common sense becaomes cannibalistic. A few unscrupulous rich cabals will feed off the population if not stopped.

I live in the country where there is more freedom and I also have my own well. I try to stay disconnected from the grid as much as possible. Well water, windmill generated power, grow much of my food also.

May 31, 2006 at 10:19 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

James: Yup, the free market is good up to a point. But carried to an extreme, like you say, there'll just be one megacorporation that controls your water, air and God knows what else. It's up to each individual to stay as disconnected as possible from that grid.

May 31, 2006 at 11:05 PM  
Blogger Kitchen Window Woman said...

VIP - Very Important Post! I was aware of Bechtel's attempt to bully Bolivia's water away from its people but did not know that this was happening in the states. Geez...What next? Yet another reason to remove the conservative corporate whores from power.

June 1, 2006 at 11:39 AM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Kitchen Window Woman: "What next?" OH, they'll think of something. As soon as they find a way to privatize our air supply and sell it to us, they will.

These people are determined to turn us into a third world country, step by step.

June 1, 2006 at 12:32 PM  
Blogger Mike V. said...

why do people think it's a good idea to screw around with things like this??

Water, power, gas, etc..

These are the things we need to live, not some commodity.

And the funny thing is, it's always brought to our attention that now we're letting the "free market" work here.

Right, just like the energy traders did in CA. Sounds like a wonderful plan.

June 1, 2006 at 2:50 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Mike: Ah yes, the "free market." That has to be the biggest euphemism of the last few decades. How can it be a "free market" when there's only one company available? They definitely shouldn't be allowed to do this with the basic necessities.

Imagine a future "water crisis" comparable to California's "energy crisis" of 2000-2001 -- just what we need.

June 1, 2006 at 3:15 PM  
Blogger Kvatch said...

Water, power grids, the Internet, these are all infrastructural "must-haves" or "very very importants" that should be kept as a public trust. Handing these off to multi-nationals is too dangerous.

June 1, 2006 at 3:50 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Kvatch: Absolutely. Anything infrastructure-related -- utilities, roadways, the internet -- cannot be handed over to private companies. These things are all too necessary; they can't be used as a tool to make a few millionaires even richer.

June 1, 2006 at 5:32 PM  
Blogger Kevin said...

Have you ever heard Lewis Black talk about how America chose to start buying bottled water instead of keeping water that came to their house clean? It was in his comedy concert Lewis Black on Broadway. Very funny.

June 1, 2006 at 5:33 PM  
Anonymous James said...

The citizens have already paid through research and infrastructure to develop these public utilities. To then hand then over to corporations the way we do drugs (legal ones) in the US is insane.

See my post on Net Neutrality at my blog if you get a chance. Public utilities are just that, public.

June 1, 2006 at 5:40 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Kevin: I haven't heard that skit. But I like Lewis Black; he's really a riot.

James: That's exactly it. These public utilities have already been developed (usually by a team of public and private enterprise) and paid for by the taxpayers. Then, after it's all up and running, the corporate robbers circle in like a bunch of sharks so they can rake off all the cream (odd metaphor, I know). We can't keep allowing this.

I'll check out your post.

June 1, 2006 at 6:00 PM  
Anonymous James said...

You and I are sympatico.
I know its not always easy as busyt as life is but you should post more often I like reading your blog.

June 1, 2006 at 7:54 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Thanks James. I'll see what I can do :)

June 1, 2006 at 8:56 PM  
Blogger Praguetwin said...

But I thought that privatization makes EVERYTHING better! Damn! You mean there are no universal political truths? I give up. Why does life have to be so complicated?

I wish I could live in a world where soundbites could replace thoughtful policy.

June 2, 2006 at 12:38 AM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Praguetwin: Ah yes, soundbites. The Free Market! The Private Sector! Free Enterprise! Anyone who doesn't believe in these philosophies 100%, all the time, is just a drug addict on welfare.

June 2, 2006 at 7:55 AM  
Blogger Jenny said...

I'm glad I ran across your blog. It's high time for us to stop standing back and watching our country go to crap. "They" have gotten away with so much by diverting our attention to mindless activities. We're turning into a bunch of Stepford Homer Simpsons (I know, that's an overkill analogy). It's handy for them to have us not paying attention to the important stuff. That's why we have diversions like Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, and the war in Iraq. In the meantime, we're getting SCREWED--as in the water situation in Illinois and other places in this country--and we don't even know it!! Keep on investigating and sharing!!!!

September 27, 2007 at 9:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Simply not true. Whenever a local government takes over utilities that is when prices rise exponentially because politicians only know how to raise taxes and rates. I've lived in cities that had privately owned water and ones where the city owned it, and every time the privately owned monthly bill was less than $50 per month while the government owned ones were closer to $200 per month.

May 2, 2009 at 6:28 PM  

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