Food & Water Europe report exemplifies the Failures of Privatized Water Systems
Paris, France—In observation of World Environment Day and France Liberte Fondation’s launch of the ‘Water for the People’ campaign, the consumer advocacy group Food & Water Europe today released a report highlighting the myriad environmental damages and service problems inflicted by Suez Environnement on United States communities and consumers. Entitled “United Water: Suez Environnement’s Poor Record in the United States,” the report highlights how the Paris-based company has gained notoriety for billing problems, poor system maintenance, repair delays, workforce reductions and other issues that compromise environmental and consumer safety at the expense of profits.
“With the movement to promote water as a human right accelerating in France and abroad, now is the time to critically examine Suez’s track record and to debunk the myth of efficient and cost-effective private sector delivery or drinking and wastewater services,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Europe. “Even in the U.S., which has many more regulations than developing nations, Suez has been unable to operate responsibly or effectively.”
Operating under the name United Water in the U.S., Suez has pursued a strategy of taking over municipal water systems, growing into the second-largest private provider of drinking and wastewater services in the country. As of 2009, the company served 7.2 million customers in 26 states.
Yet expansion has come at a cost. Several municipalities, such as Atlanta, Georgia; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Gary, Ind.; and Glouster, Mass. ended contracts with the company after suffering from maintenance backlogs, sewage spills, contaminated drinking water, workforce reductions and infrastructure problems.
Confronted with aging water systems and a shortage of funds, many municipalities consider privatizing their water systems in order to upgrade these essential resources. But due to their inefficiencies, privatized water systems often end up costing municipalities extra money in the form of fines for water quality violations and water loss, among other problems. Gary, Ind., which terminated its contract with United Water earlier this year, expects to save $8 million a year under public operation of its water system.
Ratepayers have also suffered financially under United Water’s service. North Brunswick, New Jersey cancelled its contract with United Water in 2006, after customers there saw their bills increase by 100 to 200 percent.
“The many problems experienced by communities who have suffered under United Water’s so-called ‘service’ illustrate why the movement to stop the privatization of water is gaining momentum around the world. Governments everywhere need to take responsibility for the delivery of this essential resource to ensure that it is safe, plentiful and affordable for all,” noted Hauter.
Food & Water Europe is the European program of Food and Water Watch, Inc (a non-profit consumer NGO based in Washington, DC), working to ensure the food, water and fish we consume is safe, accessible and sustainable. So we can all enjoy and trust in what we eat and drink, we help people take charge of where their food comes from, keep clean, affordable, public tap water flowing freely to our homes, protect the environmental quality of oceans, force government to do its job protecting citizens, and educate about the importance of keeping shared resources under public control.
Contact: Gabriella Zanzanaini, Food and Water Europe, Brussels
[email protected], +32488409662