Blog Posts: Water privatization

February 15th, 2019

Zurich Citizens’ Vote for Public Water

By David Sánchez

Learn more about stopping water privatization in Zurich.To a certain extent, attempts to privatise water have started looking like an anachronism in Europe. From Madrid and Thessalonoki to Berlin and Italy, every time citizens have been asked, they have massively supported public water management. If we have learned a lesson after years of imposed austerity, it is that water privatization can only have a chance when it is imposed against citizens’ will, as we are still witnessing in Greece. With a trend to remunicipalise water services around the world, some of the main examples are happening in European cities like Terrassa and Valladolid in Spain; Montpellier in France; Mafra in Portugal; and Torino in Italy.

The last ones to reject privatization plans are the citizens of Zurich, Switzerland. Last Sunday, voters rejected (by more than 50 percent) the plans of the cantonal government to allow the partial privatization of water utilities and to give private land owners a greater say in river and lakeshore use.

Rejecting recommendations by the main centre-right parties and big business, a campaign lead by left wing parties, unions and environmental groups managed to raise awareness about water commodification and against the privatization of nature.

Saying no is not enough

The morning after the referendum, an initiative was introduced in the parliament of the Canton of Zurich to guarantee public ownership over water and take initiatives to promote the human right to water. It’s a great example of how we can move from resistance into proactive campaigns to secure a model of public water management that promotes social justice.

If you read German, you can get more information about the situation in Zurich in the website of the campaign and in the press release from the trade unions.

October 22nd, 2018

Providing Universal Access to Water for all in the European Union Could Help Reducing Plastic Waste

By David Sánchez

This Tuesday, the plenary of the European Parliament will vote on a legislation regulating water for human consumption. The European Commission is framing this directive as an answer to the European Citizens’ Initiative for the Human Right to Water.

Already more than forty civil society organisations from all over the world sent a letter to Members of the European Parliament encouraging them to support the Human Right to Water in this vote. Now, organisations fighting waste and plastic pollution reminded MEPs of the importance to be coherent with efforts done under the circular economy package and take clear commitments to reduce the consumption of bottled water in the European Union.

You can check out the joint letter with Friends of the Earth Europe, Zero Waste Europe, Surfrider Foundation Europe, Seas at Risk, Rethink Plastics, Break Free from Plastic, Environmental Investigation Agency and Food & Water Europe.

See the letter

November 29th, 2017

Up to the Last Drop: The Secret Water War in Europe

By David Sánchez

Water is a human right and a common good. But it is also one of the main focuses of transnational corporations that want to profit from this scarce resource. The struggle to defend public water is now exposed in the new documentary Up to the Last Drop: The Secret Water War in Europe.

For decades, corporations have pushed for the privatization of public services – including water. In Europe, several attempts supported by the European Commission have been launched since the neoliberal wave of the 90s. Still, today some of the countries affected by the austerity crisis – Ireland, Greece, Portugal – are resisting water privatization imposed by the Troika. Water has been on the negotiation table of the new wave of free trade agreements like TTIP and TISA, and is included in CETA, which contains several provisions that put public water management and water resources under international trade and investment mechanisms.

Read the full article…

January 26th, 2017

2017 – Food & Water Europe Is Ready To Stand Its Ground

By Andy Gheorghiu, Frida Kieninger, David Sánchez

Many people said 2016 was a bad year. And there were many reasons: the result of the US elections, Brexit, or the high toll of environmental activists that were killed for standing for their communities around the globe. We don’t know what 2017 will look like, but we are sure that we want to be ready for some of the challenges we will find for our food, our water, our climate and our democracy. Together, we need to make 2017 a better year. And united we will have the power to do so!

Read the full article…

October 12th, 2016

Hitting The Wall: How European Institutions Insist On Privatizing Greek Water

By David Sánchez

foodwatereuropegreekwaterrightsBrexit was a real shock here in Brussels. For the first time, a member state decided to leave the club. It was really tempting to expect a reaction, a debate about the role of EU policies in this collective failure. But this European Union captured by big companies and ruled by a dogmatic neoliberal elite keeps doing business as usual. What happened in the last few weeks in Greece was another brutal example.

Read the full article…

August 11th, 2016

Reversing The Tide: Spain Moves Into Water Remunicipalization

By David Sánchez

Food and Water Europe El Agua No Es NegocioJust one year ago we were arguing about how Spain was still resisting the last wave of water privatization, as a result of austerity policies and debt, seasoned with corruption scandals.

But as a result of the local and regional elections a year ago, the tide changed. As a reaction to the long-term crisis, attacks to public services and corruption in traditional parties, many citizen movements organized to run for the elections, with great success in Madrid, Barcelona, Zaragoza, Ferrol, Santiago, Cádiz, Coruña and Valencia, among others.

One of the key achievements of those movements was to introduce in the public sphere the debate on how to manage public services, like water. By the end of 2015, 57 percent of the population in Spain received their tap water from a private operator. One of the most worrying consequences is that more than 500,000 families receive water cut off warnings every year, according to data from the Spanish public water companies association.

Read the full article…

January 4th, 2016

To a New Year Full of Victories for Our Food and Water!

By Geert Decock

FoodandWaterEuropeRomaniaFrackdownHere at Food & Water Europe, we’re not only celebrating the New Year, but also the 10th anniversary of our sister organisation, Food & Water Watch.

Together we have grown into a powerful advocate for healthy food and clean water for all, with nearly 1 million supporters in the US and thousands here in Europe demanding that our democracy work to improve people’s lives and protect the environment. Thanks to YOU, our allies, activists and grassroots partners, we’re proving that when we bring people together, we can overcome even the most powerful corporations.

You are a wonderful part of our celebrations, and I want to share just some of the important victories you made happen right here in Europe:

Read the full article…

October 21st, 2015

Another Day, Another Distraction for the Human Right to Water

By David Sánchez

New Mantras, Old Problems

WaterIsAHumanRightThere is a new mantra in the EU water debate: transparency. The European Commission, after ignoring the nearly two million signatures asking for the implementation of the Human Right to Water and Sanitation, is trying to keep people busy by launching a number of bureaucratic initiatives, based on mantras like transparency.

But what does transparency mean? For many private water operators it seems that overflowing people with technical data can be enough. But If I think on what information is important to me, my first thoughts go the quality of the water I am drinking. I would also like to understand my water bill and my taxes, so I can know where my money is going. Is it being invested to improve water infrastructure? In measures to control pollution of our water resources? To guarantee the right to water of those facing economic problems? Or is it going to the shareholders of a multinational company?

Read the full article…

September 3rd, 2015

No Summer Rest for Water Activists

By David Sánchez


What a summer! I was expecting the typical Brussels holiday season: empty streets in the European area, hardly any emails, no phone calls and, as the only sound around, the hypnotizing noise of wheeled suitcases while thousands flee the city. But I was wrong, a lot of activity around!

Read the full article…

May 19th, 2015

Water Privatization, Corruption and Elections in Spain

By David Sánchez

Food & Water Europe: 2015 Elections in SpainSpain is holding regional and local elections this Sunday. As a Spanish immigrant in Belgium, and a water activist, this week my attention will be split between the activity in Brussels and the elections, which will be an important milestone in the struggle for public water in Europe.

These elections are really special because Spain is a country going through an extremely long crisis. Its economy and welfare state have been destroyed by austerity policies, while the political parties that ruled the country for decades are involved in a series of corruption scandals. As a reaction, many citizen movements have organized to run for the elections, and remunicipalization of public services, including water, is one of their key targets. Read the full article…


You are reading Food & Water Europe's blog.

Please join the conversation by leaving comments.

Feel free to contact us.

Blog Categories

Blog archives

Sign Up To:

Champion healthy food and clean water and stand up to corporations that put profits before people!