KPOW! Keep Public Our Water
Update: due to pressure from concerned citizens, the Common Council has put water privatization on the back burner. Read this news article for more.
Information about the issue
History of Milwaukee's water privatization issue
Why water privatization fails [PDF]
Top ten ways that water privatization costs the public [PDF]
Money Down the Drain: How private control of water wastes public resources [PDF]
Localize Water! [PDF]
Privatization of public water services has been occurring in the US with vigor since the early 1990s. Local governments responded to the decline in water services and infrastructure by handing over control and management of utilities to private companies rather than investing more funds into their water public operations. But that is not the case in Milwaukee. Here, according to City Comptroller, Wally Morics, "The City's water utility is a well-run, well-maintained, high quality source of drinking water for City residents and some neighboring communities."
If so, there is no need to lease it as an "asset" to order to improve quality or service. The only reason Morics' wants to enter into a "long term transfer of [this] public asset" is "in exchange for a range of financial, liability transfer, and risk mitigation benefits" (or more simply stated "six million dollars"). Morics wants to h
and over our water works to a private company, not to improve an ill-functioning system, but to make money off a very well-run operation.
- Water is part of the Commons, held in the public trust by public agencies. Water is not a commodity or an asset that can be leased or sold in order to provide income for the City of Milwaukee. Water should not be managed, controlled or owned by a private individual or company. It is owned, in common, by all the citizens of the water basin.
- Access to fresh, clean water is a human right. A number of world organizations and assemblies have stated this clearly: "The human right to drinking water is fundamental to life and health. Sufficient and safe drinking water is a precondition for the realization of human rights." (UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights,11/27/02) "Water is a fundamental human right and a public trust to be guarded by all levels of government, therefore, it should not be commodified, privatized or traded for commercial purposes. These rights must be enshrined at all levels of government." (Cochabamba Declaration, Bolivia, 12/8/2000) "Water is best protected by local communities and citizens who must be respected as equal partners with governments in the protection and regulation of water." (Cochabamba Declaration, Bolivia, 12/8/2000)
- The intent and purpose of a private, for-profit company is to make the highest profit possible for its owners and stockholders. That means any company taking over the Milwaukee Water Works will try to sell as much water as it can. That goal is diametrically opposed to the spirit and intent of the Great Lakes Compact. The Compact calls for no diversions of water outside the Great Lakes basin, and it mandates the conservation of water within the basin. While the Compact is trying to protect and save water, the private water company with its 99-year lease will be trying to sell as much water as it can.
- In many communities that have privatized their water works, jobs have been lost, salaries and benefits of local citizens have been cut, and water monitoring and services have been reduced or delayed. "Cutting costs," along with selling high volumes of water, must be a for-profit company's modus operandi to increasing its bottom line.
- Although Morics and company will undoubtedly claim that the City governing body will still own and control our water, a long-term lease, paid for up-front, will give a strong transnational corporation considerable power and wiggle-room over time to gradually seize control of the water works as if they owned it. They will likely find ways to make up the return on their initial investment, and to insure increasing profits for their company and stockholders. That 99-year slide into control will come at citizens' expense in higher water rates, effectively excluding the poor from access to clean water. It will also lead to the permanent loss of Lake Michigan water.
Tell the Mayor, Common Council and Comptroller:
- Don't even go there! Don't even think of water or the water works as a commodity that can be turned into an income source for the city.
- Don't throw our water on the fire-sale table to be leased/sold to the highest bidder to fix our calamitous budget deficit.
- Think, instead, of water as our area's vital treasure. It is not for sale or up for a 99-year lease.
- Think of water as the people's most important resource, to be held securely by our public representatives and agencies as part of the Commons.
- Tell the Mayor, Common Council, and Comptroller to study, instead, the ways any profits from our well-run, public water works might be returned to the City's general fund.
- Finally, tell them to cancel the water privatization study and look for less risky ways to solve our budget crisis.