VScope
editorial screed
10/3/02
updated 9/16/04

Water is essential for all life forms.
It makes up 60 to 70% by weight of all living organisms
and is essential for photosynthesis.
The viability of all life on earth
is determined chiefly by
the presence of water.


Water Shortage: The Latest, Greatest "Business Opportunity"

The World Bank predicts that two-thirds of the world's population will run short of adequate water in the next 20 years.

Two years ago, Fortune magazine exulted that water "will be to the 21st century what oil was to the 20th." The magazine was thrilled that "the liquid everybody needs . . . is going private, creating one of the world's great business opportunities."

In a world of water scarcity, "the liquid everybody needs" is "going private." A life-and-death public resource is becoming another commodity for traders and speculators.

Much of our nation's heretofore public, common water supply has already "gone private."
For instance: as of 2001, Suez Lyonnaise (now just Suez) of France took over United Water Resources, which is the second biggest water company in the U.S.
United Water is literally a household name to thousands of Jersey residents - many Vernon residents included.

As for the idea that towns, cities, states, and entire nations ought not surrender control of their water supply to the whims of corporate empire builders, the CEO of Suez Lyonnaise retorts: "We must rise above national egotism!"
That's rich, coming from a French outfit directly descended from the corporation that built the Suez Canal in 1858 under the patronage of Emperor Napoleon III.
The multibillion dollar Suez Lyonnaise water empire expands by 10% a year thanks to exploiting the water resources of other nations.

In 2000, French based Suez, the largest water company in the world, bought the much smaller U.S. based United Water Co. and acquired Bergen County water in the deal.
Though it's major operations are in the third world, Suez supplies water to 8.5 million people in the U.S. and Canada, operating water systems in 17 of the United States.
Meanwhile, in those 17 states, United Water is well known for high rates, billing/metering errors, running water systems into the ground, ignoring clean water standards, etc. Like other big water companies, they wear down their customers by denying that there are any problems with water supply or quality, blaming customers for water difficulties, and giving no or impossibly slow service in everything from repairing leaks to replacing broken fire hydrants.
In places like Atlanta, Georgia and Jersey City, NJ, folks have discovered that United Water (which controls their water infrastructure) is slow to do much of anything, except for sending out higher and higher bills and hustling local governments to hand over their water systems for private exploitation.
After all, the private companies argue, local governments "don't have the expertise" to run their own water systems. Much better to pay United Water millions in annual fees to bring its corporate efficiency to the municipal water system, even though - when residents' complaints roll in - United Water service representatives simply direct irate citizens to municipal employees.
Because, as it turns out, the "expertise" and corporate efficiency of private water companies often translates into cutting back company staff or hiring low-wage outfits to do meter reading.

Private empires are not subject to the open-access and disclosure rules of public agencies. A private water company is not required to open its books or justify its fees. It simply sends a bill, which is not subject to public review. Sell water to the people, who can't live without it, and who have to pay any bill the company sends or else their water will be cut off. Folks who are thus deprived of water can take the matter up with municipal employees.
There you have it.
Privatize the revenues, socialize the problems.
If you think your municipality's underground water supply is safe, think again. Other folks may be lining up to get that water, particularly if theirs is tapped out or contaminated. A private water company can pump your water supply right out from under you and send it - sell it -elsewhere. They can even dig new wells ("service improvements") to pump more water for that purpose.

During the dramatic rise in bottled water consumption in the last ten years, some bottling companies have stretched their original water sources so thin they began to use common groundwater and wells near hazardous contamination, all the while touting their bottled water as naturally pure and pristine. (Odds are it's pure hype. For example, most of the sources for Poland Spring are either surrounded by asphalt parking lots or potentially dangerous contamination, according to the lawsuit filed against a subsidiary of Swiss-based Nestle SA. And the North Carolina Agriculture Department ordered Crystal Geyser and seven other bottled waters, including the popular Naya and Poland Springs brands, taken from store shelves in the state. The agency claimed "false and deceptive labeling" saying companies actually drilled underground wells to pump water to the surface for bottling. Perrier / Nestle bottles water at 50 locations throughout the U.S.
And not for nothing is Evian "naive" spelled backwards.)

So it is that, apart from controlling our water systems, corporate powers are now selling the water itself. Speculators and corporate hustlers are claiming a right to buy, sell, extract, and move massive amounts of fresh water.
Through court actions, lobbying, trade deals, and weasel deals (campaign contributions), the law is being perverted to turn public bodies of water into a tradable commodity, like pork bellies.

Americans may find that their water supplies have been "privatized" to benefit the stockholders of foreign water corporations. The World Bank and International Monetary Fund routinely pressure Third World nations to privatize their water systems.

But who is hard at work pressuring us Americans to give our water away?
Seek no further than our own present U. S. Congress.

Upgrading and expanding water systems is hugely expensive. Federal support is needed to do the job -- but the Water Investment Act of 2002 (S.1961) would make this funding conditional on whether local governments consider turning over their water to private corporations.

So a local water board will have to spend your tax dollars offering your public water supply for sale -- knowing that Big Water corporations will sue the daylights out of them if they don't get their way.
Foreign water corporations are already using NAFTA to force local governments to turn loose their water for private exploitation. How so? Because, under Ch.11 of NAFTA, companies can demand compensation when government regulations or policy decisions cause a dip in their future bottom line. This little section of NAFTA is an end run around the U.S. Constitution, and it ensures that the "rights" of foreign investors will trump the constitutional rights of American citizens every time.
NAFTA tribunal decisions, arrived at in secret, are not subject to appeal in U.S. courts.
No, we're not making this up.
As William Greider, author of "Who Will Tell The People," said:

"If you're a civil servant, or even a political leader, you've gotta think twice when a corporate lawyer comes to you and says, quite forcefully, we're gonna hit you for half a billion dollars if you do this."

Or don't do this, in the case of turning your water supply over to a private corporation.


If a local government will not allow the foreign corporation to have its way with the public water supply, then the NAFTA tribunal will simply make the public compensate that foreign corporation to the tune of whatever profits were foretold by that corporation's crystal ball gazers.

So the Water Investment Act of 2002 (S.1961), like NAFTA, provides foreign water companies with a win-win scenario beyond the dreams of avarice. They might as well go to America's taxpayers and say, "This is a stickup - your money or your life." Water is a necessity of life for every human being. The U.S. Congress should not be in the business of serving foreign water corporations who seek to take over our country's water and, one way or another, victimize American taxpayers.
BTW, the Water Investment Act of 2002 also allows privately-owned wastewater facilities to access Clean Water Act state revolving funds. Yet another example of our tax dollars put to work, boosting the fortunes of private companies who ran their systems into the ground.

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee passed the much anticipated water infrastructure bill, S 1961, the Water Investment Act, on May 17, 2002. The vote was 13 to 6.

Since 1996, when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency first warned of a looming water infrastructure crisis, private water companies and their associations have ratcheted up spending in the political arena, allocating millions to influence and support lawmakers.The National Association of Water Companies, the private utility industry group, and the seven private companies nearly all foreign-owned emerged as donating giants among the water sector.
Over the last seven years, those firms and their employees together contributed 84 percent of the roughly $2 million the water utility sector donated to federal election campaigns.
More than half of the sector's campaign spending came from two large New Jersey companies, United Water Resources Inc., owned by Suez (French; see above), and American Water Works Co. Inc., which was acquired by a German conglomerate on Jan. 10, 2003.

To be a willing victim is absurd.
A nation of willing victims, surrendering its water supply without a fight, will get the government it deserves.


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