Muckrock by Gabrielle Rosenthal
August 20, 2019
This year, Food & Water Watch joined MuckRock to investigate water privatization efforts in the United States. Together, we filed state-level public records requests to the 100 largest water systems in the country. As a summer intern at Food & Water Watch, I have spent much of my time following up on these requests. Here are some tips that I picked up that could help as you file your own requests – plus some interesting findings!
Why Water Privatization?
Water privatization occurs when a private corporation takes control of a public water or sewer system by either buying or operating the utility. The industry’s track record has shown that this is a process that harms communities and customers. When private companies are in charge, they are not accountable to the public the way that local governments are, leaving the community with no transparency and little input. Privatization also usually leads to higher water rates than public water service — on average, bills cost 59 percent more — and consumers see more frequent rate increases. Despite their promises, private companies generally have worse customer service despite higher operating costs, and privatization usually leads to job losses. Because of all of these threats to communities’ access to safe and affordable water service, we wanted to assess the status of the country’s largest public water systems to see if they were considering or in the midst of privatization.