A water oligopoly in the making?

From Oligopoly Watch:

New federal regulations in the US seem likely to trigger the rapid oligopolization of the US water utility market. That’s according to a story in The New York Times ("It Doesn’t Mix With Oil, and the Market Is Drinking It Up", 10/30/2005).

Currently, most the US’s water and sewage systems are owned by local, municipal or semi-public companies. There are a total 55,000 of such utilities, and (according to the article, 95% of them serve fewer than 3,000 homes each. Most of these systems are over 50 years old, and many are in need of serious maintenance campaigns.

But the kicker is that these cash-starved services are about to get hit by new government regulations.

These regs, which mandate new water quality standards, make it likely these small water companies will get bought out by enormous multinational water companies. Sure, we need clean water, but when an enormous French, British, or US multinational owns the water system in your town, I’m guessing they will put profit before anything else. And that’s hardly a guarantee of clean, reasonably priced water, now is it? Because suddenly your water system is no longer public, can be bought and sold without the say of those who use the water, and unless you think the Enron debacles were a good thing, then let’s keep water public and affordable.

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