After the binge of privatization of municipal water systems in the 1980s and 1990s, citizens and city governments are starting to realize what a big mistake they made. Privatization resulted in higher rates and lower water quality, service and public accountability. As William Harless describes in the Wall Street Journal (August 19), many municipalities are now mounting lawsuits and ballot measures to try to regain control over systems that they had ceded to private companies.
In Ojai, residents will vote next week on whether to buy back their water system from Golden State Water Co., a move that the company opposes. A lawsuit in Worchester, Massachusetts, is trying to regain public control over the city’s water system, which had been sold. And in Connecticut, some towns are objecting to higher rates that have resulted after their systems were acquired by Aquarian Water Co. of Bridgeport, Connecticut, which consolidated the rates for the towns it serves.
It is satisfying to see the glittering promises about privatization exposed for what they are: glittering promises. For more on this theme, check out the work of a group called In the Public Interest, one of the most aggressive Washington, D.C.-based policy opponents of privatization in the US. The group's website has lots of materials explaining how and why privatization of public resources is a bad deal for taxpayers and citizens.