Public Water Jeopardized by Private Interest
Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch, issued the following statement Nov. 9 regarding the contract between the New York City Department of Environmental Protection and Veolia Water:
"Unfortunately, the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) efficiency contract with international corporation Veolia Water, announced yesterday, represents a successful first attempt by the company to infiltrate a municipal water utility using its new strategy in the U.S. Key to Veolia’s strategy is the pursuit of performance based contracts instead of operation and management contracts.
“Consumers should know that Veolia has spent at least $75,000 lobbying the DEP’s procurement department since March.
“This deal is bad for consumers, as Veolia could recommend changes that undermine customer service or sacrifice New York City’s water quality. Many of the strategies that private water companies use to reduce costs and generate profit come at the expense of service quality. Veolia may use shoddy materials, skimp on treatment chemicals and upkeep, and cut back the workforce, thereby slowing response times to maintenance needs, customer service requests and emergencies.
“Rather than cutting a deal with Veolia, the city should have instead explored a public-public partnership to boost efficiency. By partnering with other public entities, nonprofit organizations or labor unions, cities have saved millions of dollars while improving services and retaining local control. Compared to contracts with private entities, these public-public partnerships usually have lower transaction costs and are more cost-effective and reliable.
“Many communities have wisely resisted giving control of their water and sewer systems to private water corporations whose interests do not necessarily align with the public good. Fortunately, this opposition has forced Veolia and other private water companies to pursue more restricted contracts, but even these narrower arrangements warrant public scrutiny.”
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Food & Water Watch works to ensure the food, water and fish we consume is safe, accessible and sustainable. So we can all enjoy and trust in what we eat and drink, we help people take charge of where their food comes from, keep clean, affordable, public tap water flowing freely to our homes, protect the environmental quality of oceans, force government to do its job protecting citizens, and educate about the importance of keeping shared resources under public control.