The privatization of water utilities is not a new practice, but it has become more widely known in the past few years. Water privatization happens when a municipality contracts the water service to a privately held company. The benefit to the municipality is companies will bid for contracts and the competition will drive the contract rates. Now the city is responsible for the contract while the company is responsible for not only supplying the community with clean, safe water, it is also responsible for the upgrades and repairs for the existing infrastructure. (Millsap, A., 2016) The benefit for the private company is once the contract has been won, these companies, not the municipalities, have complete control over what the consumers are charged for their services.
Water is a basic human need, and as such, many people believe that it should not be sold the highest, or lowest in this case, bidder. It feels, somehow, ethically unsound. In cases such as this, it is often the people already struggling to make ends meet that suffer the greatest. It seems as if the local governments are so caught up in saving money for themselves, they do not see what it can do to its communities. Another ethical ramification that does not seem to have been considered is the extreme waste and overuse of water in a time that we should instead be conserving. At the same time that population is skyrocketing, our global water reservoirs are steadily declining. Private companies have no interest in conservation. The more water we use, the more profits they receive. (Interlandi, J., 2010)
One of the disagreements that the public has with water privatization is there are many people who think water should be free because it is a necessity. It is hard to make people understand that regardless of who has control of the water systems, it is going to cost money, and that is going to be at the expense of the consumer. (America’s Neglected Water Systems, 2015) In such a wealthy country as ours, we just assume that what we need will be there. We turn on the tap, the water comes on. We drive our cars through automatic car washes with no thought as to what happens with the waste water that is now polluted with chemicals. All of the water that we use so carelessly throughout the day, is now full of soaps, medication and other chemicals that makes the reuse of this water impossible unless is it treated. Now think about how the water is getting to you. There are countless miles of pipelines that need to be maintained and repaired and these repairs have to be done by skilled tradesmen. Where is the water stored before and after treatment? It is easy for us to forget what goes into providing for our personal water use because we never have to think about it, it’s just there. When we look at it from this perspective, we get a better understanding of the reasons behind the price that we pay for this necessary utility.
“Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.”- Warren Buffet
Please follow the link below for an infographic on the subject.
Millsap, A. (2016, October 05). Privatizing Water Facilities Can Help Cash-Strapped Municipalities. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/adammillsap/2016/10/05/privatizing-water-facilities-can-help-cash-strapped-municipalities/
Interlandi, J. (2010, October 08). The Race to Buy Up the World’s Water. Retrieved July 17, 2019, from https://www.newsweek.com/race-buy-worlds-water-73893
Jun 10, 2. A. (2015, June 10). U.S. Needs $1 Trillion in Water System Upgrades. Retrieved July 13, 2019, from https://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/americas-neglected-water-systems-face-a-reckoning/