Why privatizing water is a bad idea

When cities hire firms to run utilities, they seek quality at lower cost. They may get ethics scandals, violations and irate consumers.

In some places, private-sector management helped trim bureaucracies and replace decaying infrastructure, local officials say. But in Indianapolis, New Orleans, Atlanta and other cities, privatization has been accompanied by corruption scandals, environmental violations and a torrent of customer complaints.

In Atlanta, residents began complaining of brown, brackish drinking water soon after the French company Suez and a subsidiary began running the water system under a $428-million, 20-year contract.

In New Orleans, officials blamed a subsidiary of Veolia Environnement, another French company, for illegally discharging sewage into the Mississippi River on dozens of occasions.

In Milwaukee, a Suez subsidiary caused 107 million gallons of untreated sewage to be discharged into streams and Lake Michigan, a 2002 state audit found.

The article details many more such instances. Water is too precious and too basic a human right to be turned over the private industry, whose primary goal is maximizing profit for themselves and shareholders. Water should stay public.

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