31
Jul
2004

Water for all

Currents

JULY 2004

PUBLIC CITIZENS NEWS UPDATE

Can't sneak it in: California office battles bond fund giveaway Late June is a busy season in Sacramento. It's when disgruntled lobbyists scramble to find legislative hosts for gut-and-amend bills-where lawmakers delete the entire text of an existing bill and insert language on an unrelated issue-to then whiz through committees without time for the public to catch on and weigh in. Assembly Bill 1647 is just such a bill. It resurrects the shelved attempt from last year to allow private water corporations to receive grants and loans from California general obligation bonds. This would be a devastating shift in California public policy, and would bust open the door for private corporations to siphon off of taxpayers to subsidize their acquisition of public water systems. Public Citizen's California office caught on to the bill just in time to rush to Sacramento and testify. The bill's author however, pulled the bill from the agenda three and a half hours into the hearing. A broad coalition of environmental, environmental justice, consumer rights organizations and public water agencies are organizing to stop the bill when it resurfaces in August after the legislative recess. Please contact jabeck@citizen.org or 510-663-0888 ext 101 to help this effort.

New Report: Prepaid water meters is no solution

Water for All has published a new report "Orange Farm, South Africa:

The Forced Implementation of Prepaid Water Meters" in collaboration with the South African coalition against water privatization and the Anti-Privatisation Forum. The report is based on 193 interviews from Orange Farm Township on the outskirts of Johannesburg. In the past two years, some township residents have been used as guinea pigs for a program that is set to be rolled out to all poor neighborhoods in Johannesburg. Prepaid water meters deny water users the right to water as no money means no access to water. It has created a number of conflicts in the township and the report foresees tremendous harm from the roll out in other areas of the country. Prepaid water meters are increasingly an "easy" solution used by decision makers in poor communities to force upfront payments. The procedural issues around the provision are highly questionable and the impact on marginalized populations is devastating. Find the report and more information on
//www.citizen.org/cmep/Water/humanright/meter

Update: Highland Park residents still battling corrupt privatization
drive

After months of debates and constant refusal from the Highland Park City Council, a suburb of Detroit, to approve a questionable non-bid contract with inexperienced Rothschild Wright Group (RWG), state-appointed officials, in leaked documents, indicate that they will overrule the Highland Park council vote and approve a 10-year contract to privatize their water system. The contract includes provisions that allow RWG to bottle water from the public reservoir. RWG proposed a contract in a no-bid arrangement, but has shown no information on experienced water management. The proposed contract holds Highland Park financially responsible for potential costs, while ensuring RWG returns of investment. Find more information on
//www.waterissweet.org/detroit/index.html or on
//www.citizen.org/cmep/Water/us/other/detroit

Workers say NO to privatization plan in Peru

On July 14, there was a national work stoppage in Peru to protest President Toledo's plan to privatize 13 14 water utilities in the next three years. A delegation from the water worker's union, FENTAP, came to the U.S. beforehand on July 12 to meet with other public worker unions, as part of a coordinated effort to stop a $50 million loan from the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) to Peru that will require municipalities to form public/private partnerships before they can receive funding. (FENTAP recently had a big win in the state of La Libertad, where their local union led coalition
successfully drove out the private company managing the water and sewage systems of three cities.) The delegation was very excited to hear about Rep. Schakowsky's "Water for the World" resolution that includes a clause stating that international financial institutions such as IADB should not approve loans that require public/private partnerships and other forms of privatization. The Peru delegation met with Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) and Rep. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and received firm commitments that they would write a letter to the U.S. Executive Director of the IADB asking that this loan be stopped or the privatization condition removed. The letter will be circulated to the Hispanic Caucus and all other members.

Private company hopes to cash in on Las Vegas water grab

Las Vegas thinks it's found the Big Answer to its drought stricken water woes: poke holes in the ground up north, suck water from the aquifer and pipe it to the city. It's a thinly disguised scheme to enable the growth addicted and politically powerful development industry. The state's congressional delegation is unanimously supporting legislation that is ostensibly a wilderness bill but that would also grease the skids on the plan by identifying pipeline corridors on federal lands. Meantime, an outfit called Vidler Water Co. has managed to gain an interest in water rights in the vicinity of the pipeline route. "We believe that Vidler's assets are favorably positioned to contribute to the water resource solutions required in the Southwest," the company helpfully explains while referencing the Las Vegas water grab in its annual report. Translation: We're sitting on this water and waiting for the price to go up and then we'll sell it to the Las Vegas for a bundle, yeehaw. All of which was enough to prompt creation of the Nevada Adhoc Water Network, a coalition of environmentalists, rural citizenry, public interest organizations and others. They're fighting the proposed legislation, calling instead for, among other things, a serious analysis of Las Vegas water resources, uses and policy alternatives an analysis that isn't conducted by water officials answering to politicians who are beholden to the development industry.

The pipeline portions of the water grab bill, officially known as the Lincoln County Conservation, Recreation and Development Act, is premature, unnecessary, would promote the commodification of water in the arid West, and should be stripped from the legislation.

On the Go: Water for All representative goes to Berlin

Water for All participated in a workshop in Berlin in late June aimed at developing a potential process for a global review of private sector participation in water management. The meeting took departure from a recent international scoping process including 300 stakeholders that assessed the need for a global review. This scoping process was initiated at the International Freshwater Conference in Bonn in 2001.

Participants at the Berlin multi-stakeholder workshop discussed the findings and recommendations from the scoping report and the pros and cons of different options for a multi-stakeholder review. The consensus at the meeting was that a potential review must prioritize the need to achieve affordable and sustainable access...


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