Tag Archive for 'water privatization'

Feds privatize Canadian water with AbitibiBowater NAFTA settlement

“The record-setting $130-million NAFTA settlement with AbitibiBowater has effectively privatized Canada’s water by allowing foreign investors to assert a proprietary claim to water permits and even water in its natural state, said trade lawyer and Council of Canadians board member Steven Shrybman, in a presentation to Parliament today.

“”It would be difficult to overstate the consequences of such a profound transformation of the right Canadian governments have always had to own and control public natural resources,” said Mr. Shrybman in his presentation to the Standing Committee on International Trade, which is studying the AbitibiBowater NAFTA settlement from last August.

“”Moreover, by recognizing water as private property, the government has gone much further than any international arbitral tribunal has dared to go in recognizing a commercial claim to natural water resources.”

“In 2008, AbitibiBowater, a Canadian firm registered in the United States, closed its pulp and paper mill in Grand Falls-Windsor, NL. The company asserted rights to sell its assets, including certain timber harvesting licenses and water use permits. These permits were contingent on production. More importantly, under Canada’s constitution, they are a public trust owned by the Province, not by private firms. So the Newfoundland government moved to re-appropriate them as it has a right to do under Canadian law. AbitibiBowater sidestepped the courts to challenge the Newfoundland government.”

Read more: Public Values

Something’s not right about this California water deal

Lawsuit challenges control of Kern Water Bank

The Kern Water Bank is shown 15 miles west of Bakersfield in this Jan. 6, 2009, photo. (AP Photo/Contra Costa Times, Karl Mondon) Photo retrieved from BakersfieldNow.com

“Students of California’s history of gold and oil rushes know it’s filled with examples of profiteering, conspiracy, influence-peddling and other chicanery.

“So there’s no reason the story should be any different with that liquid gold of the 21st century, water.

“That’s the theme of a lawsuit filed a few weeks ago alleging there’s something smelly about how a group of private interests — notably a huge agribusiness owned by the wealthy Southern California couple Stewart and Lynda Resnick — got control of an underground water storage project the state had already spent $75 million to develop.

‘The lawsuit was filed by a group of water agencies and environmental groups contending that the transaction was essentially a gift of public property to private interests and therefore violates the state constitution.

“They’re asking a judge to reverse the deal. That way, they contend, the storage facility can be integrated into the state’s water management plan, so a precious and dwindling natural resource can serve everyone in the state, not just a few powerful farm companies and real estate developers.”

read more: LA Times

How a Tiny Town Sent an International Water Giant Packing

Photo Credit: Jenn Ireland for Yes! Magazine. Retrieved from: AlterNet.org

“In 2008, weeks after communities all over the United States celebrated the Fourth of July, the tiny town of Felton, Calif., marked its own holiday: Water Independence Day. With barbecue, music, and dancing, residents marked the end of Felton’s six-year battle to gain control of its water system. The fight, like the festivities, was a grassroots effort. For when a large, private corporation bought Felton’s water utility and immediately raised rates, residents organized, leading what was ultimately a successful campaign for public ownership and inspiring other communities nationwide.

“Like many other communities with a privately controlled water system, Felton quickly experienced some of the drawbacks: skyrocketing rates, and little public recourse. But officials of some cash-strapped towns seek privatization because they believe a corporation will help lift their burden. Across the country, public water systems require massive repairs to deteriorating infrastructure, at an estimated annual cost of about $17 billion over the next 20 years. Our aging water mains result in some 240,000 breaks a year, and more than a trillion gallons of wastewater spill into our waterways annually. Federal funds typically help communities pay the repair bills, but escalating costs have prompted many cities to look for alternatives.

“Providing clean, accessible, affordable water is not only the most basic of all government services, but throughout history, control of water has defined the power structure of societies,” Alan Snitow and Deborah Kaufman, filmmakers who documented the effort of Stockton, Calif., to fight privatization, wrote in the book Water Consciousness. “If we lose control of our water, what do we as citizens really control through our votes, and what does democracy mean?”

“Food & Water Watch has studied the effects of water-system privatization and has helped Felton and other communities turn—or return—to public control. In a 2009 report that examined nearly 5,000 water utilities and 1,900 sewer utilities, the organization found that the private entities—which have a fiduciary obligation to shareholders—charge up to 80 percent more for water and 100 percent more for sewer services. Privately owned utilities cost more to operate, too: They typically have to pay income and property taxes, while public utilities are exempt. In all, according to Food & Water Watch, operation and maintenance costs of privatized water systems can spike 20 to 30 percent, when dividends, taxes, and profits are factored in. It follows that corporations make more money if more water is used; conservation and repairs, then, can fall off the priority list. When Stockton, Calif., privatized its wastewater system, higher-than-promised rate hikes, poor maintenance, and sewage overflows followed. When 8 million gallons discharged into the San Joaquin River, the spill went unnoticed for 10 hours and unreported to the public for three days.”

read more: AlterNet

Ecuador water law sparks protests

“Police in Ecuador have used tear gas and batons in clashes with protesters trying to reach the national assembly in the capital, Quito.

“The clashes on Thursday came as about 1,500 people joined a protest against a proposed new law that would regulate water resources.

“The protesters say the proposed law discriminates against indigenous groups by allowing private companies to divert water that local people have depended on for generations.”

read more: Al Jazeera

Twisted Logic of Privatization: You People Saved Water Last Year — So Rates Are Going Up!

“Several cash strapped US cities have sold off their municipal water systems or at least contracted operations to for-profit companies. (One of the truly odd things about the water market in America is that the biggest players in privatization are European corporations.) Recapping the perverse incentive: conserve water to be “green;” get charged more for what you still use to keep the overseas profit stream flowing.”

read more: AlterNet