Private versus Public
There is a battle brewing over who owns water. A resource as vital as water should not be exposed to the highest bidder. In the past decade, the privatisation of water resources in Europe has seen a rapid increase, and big companies have profited from this. But on the other hand, a massive movement of resistance has grown all over the continent, to stop privatisation processes, regain public control over water and reclaim water as a human right and a common good.
The private management of public utilities has been promoted as a way to bring efficiency to public services to save money for both taxpayers and water customers. And lately, the European Commission has been pushing for water privatisation as part of the Troika (together with the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund) as a way to solve the debt crisis in some countries.
Communities that have experimented with privatisation have found that it does not solve their water woes. In fact, consumers face steep water rate hikes, rapidly crumbling infrastructure, excessive leaks, water service disruptions and unaccountable management. An increasing trend to remunicipalise water management is spreading around Europe, with examples in Paris, Berlin and many other big, medium-sized and small cities. Find out more about the Paris success story.
Water managed by the public sector is a better choice, as it will lead to a more responsible and accountable management of our water resources to ensure that water will be clean, safe and affordable for all.
Funding Clean Water
Food & Water Europe promotes the right to universal access to clean and affordable water because it is a human right and a common good.
While private water companies often promise to improve the quality of ageing, underfunded water systems, research continues to show that public management and operation of water systems is cheaper and more efficient than private management and operation.
We should be able to count on the EU, our national governments and our regulators to oversee and protect the quality and safety of our water, which should be free of control by businesses looking to turn a profit.
Instead of irresponsible private investment schemes, we need to plan ahead for future generations and to create a dedicated source of public funding so that communities across Europe can keep water as a vital resource.
How Food & Water Europe Is Helping
Food & Water Europe serves as a clearinghouse for information and an ally in organising to ensure that water — a public resource — stays in public hands. We provide support for the water movements in Europe, be it citizen initiatives, elected officials or other NGOs who are fighting to protect their water from corporate control.
Food & Water Europe supported the European Citizens’ Initiative asking for the Human Right to Water to be included in EU legislation. The ECI is a new tool launched by the European Commission to help citizens play a more active role in the European political process. After collecting nearly 2 million signatures, the European Commission response was extremely disappointing.
But the struggle goes on, and the movement reclaiming a democratic water management is growing, with citizens organising consultations and referendums all across Europe. Food & Water Europe will work closely with allies in the European Water Movement to reclaim water as a human right and a common good.