Water is a scarce resource, a fact that is becoming more evident as time goes on and pollution becomes more evident. There are many instances where privatization has been beneficial; bureaucratic red tape often makes policy making a headache for consumers, and some eagerly advocate for privatization of certain resources. Privatization often has advantages, but in many instances it also realizes many of the same disadvantages of many other political systems including customer complaints and scandals (Morris, 2006). When it comes to water, privatization can lead to the destruction of healthy drinking water, a lack of equitable access of drinking water, and a shortage of drinking water not just in third world countries, but in developed nations. Water is not a resource that can be privatized successfully; it is a resource that has to be standardized to be made safe, and one that basic human rights dictate must be made readily available to everyone.
Privatization is not something new; it has existed ever since corporations have; it is a money game. Water is a resource that is readily available; it is a basic right, something that should be readily available for all of mankind. Private companies exist for the private man as a way to make money. They can "help" people, but only if it is in the best interests of their board of directors, and in the best interests of their shareholders. When push comes to shove, the private company is going to do what is best for the company, and not for the individual citizen. When a resource comes along that is valuable, something that is as essential to life as is water, then a company has the potential to make an enormous profit. Corruption is almost inevitable, because there is something at stake that is priceless, and that is human life. There is a great deal of power that is associated with something as great as water and life. This is something that is not always talked about when it comes to "human" resources, or the resource of water. But essentially this is what the privatization of water boils down to. There are many instances and examples where private companies have attempted to take over and control water, and have failed, demonstrated the inefficiency and potential harm privatization can have on water distribution. French companies and other foreign companies have had opportunities to distribute water in the states. Thus far, they have not done a very successful job of satisfying the American people, although no major calamities have occurred just yet. This is not the same in the UK, where there have been instances of poor quality drinking water, and contaminated drinking water distributed to the people in the UK. Morris (2006) points out that in Atlanta, GA residents noticed that "brown, brackish drinking water" became the norm after a French company named Suez started running the once owned public water system after purchasing a 20-year contract. In New Orleans public officials stated a French company was also to blame for discharging sewage into the Mississippi river multiple times which also lead to water contamination. In cases where water is contaminated, much more serious public consequences can occur. For example, water can carry very dangerous diseases, including E. Coli and cryptosporidium, which can be life-threatening illnesses. This is one reason why water quality management is so important. Once water-born illness spreads, it can be very difficult to get under control.
There are many other examples of how devastating water privatization can be. Macdonald (2009) notes that in 1999 Bolivia privatized water services in the country's third largest city, which resulted in angry street protest and violence. Part of the reason is that the cost of water skyrocketed, water was not readily made available to all people, and that water quality controls were not adequately measured and in place. This eventually resulted in the withdrawal of the private contract. AU.S. engineering company which was overseeing the project eventually had to leave the country due to the extent of the violence and protests. There has been much footage since then of the protests, and the extent of violence and the dangers associated with water privatization. Why is it so difficult to privatize the distribution of water? In recent years, private water companies have been spending more money, up to 1.5 million dollars and more on political campaigns, especially foreign private water companies (SERC, 2011). Perhaps foreign water companies are trying to gain political influence, an even bigger reason to share a concern over privatization of water Campaign spending "more than tripled between 1999 and 2002" (SERC, 2011). Clinton and Bush both deferred to more "state independence" suggesting states should allow more private sector outsourcing in water administrations, whereas in the past water regulations was "wholly the province of municipal government" (Vitale, 2001). Changes in tax laws are encouraging more privatization of water regulation, despite the statistics showing that privatization is not necessarily, beneficial to the public. In fact, industry reps are actually encouraging incentives to increase privatization, to help reduce the budget deficit. States are still increasing their efforts toward privatization, and it is likely that this trend will continue in 1st and 2nd world countries, given the current state of economic affairs.
There are many perils associated with water privatization as well. Typically, when it comes to water privatization, much of the management in private corporations is simply not equipped with the knowledge and skills necessary to perform the duties associated with operating a water management firm (Macdonald, 1999). Much of the time, there is a lot of corruption and inefficiency associated with the privatization of water, because water is such a valuable, and necessary resource for life; the potential for abuse is extreme. What often happens is that private companies consider capital and their profit margins over the considerations of what is best for the people; and for this reason water distribution and the best interests of the public go unchecked. If water is in the hands of the state, this is less likely to happen, because government officials have an obligation and duty to do what is right for the people that they govern.
Private companies are simply not able to keep up with the demand for clean water. Roughly 90% of local water distribution in most areas is government or state controlled according to Macdonald (1999). Even if the aquifers currently available are poorly run, the government provides clean water. This is not always the case with private companies distributing water. Roughly one sixth of the population still does not receive clean water however (Macdonald, 1999). Given this, there is a lot of interest in privatization according to some. There are some organizations and lobbyists that think private corporations could do a better job of distributing the clean water that is available. The problem is that clean water is becoming a scarcer resource, and many feel that private companies will simply charge more for the clean water that is available, making it even more implausible that it will be available to the people that need it most, causing even more problems. In the near future, studies suggest that as the world population continues to grow, and global warming becomes an ever-increasing problem, more people than ever are going to need clean water. In fact, there are going to be more and more people inhabiting regions of the world where water is already in short supply, and inhabiting areas where there is "water stress" (Macdonald, 2009). The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development says that more water will be necessary to quench the world in the next two decades and yet the world can barely keep up with the demand that is necessary even now. The supply of water that is available in aquifers throughout the world is already "dropping rapidly" according to many researchers and environmental experts, but most people are not in a place at present where they can or are willing to pay more so that they can pay for repairs to water gathering or sustaining resources (Macdonald, 2009). For the most part, many people who have access to clean water right now simply do not realize what valuable resource water is.
Promotion of Privatization
Who are the faces behind privatization? Typically they are large companies looking to make money. Consider pharmaceutical companies that take advantage of sick people looking to churn a profit. Sick people require medicine; healthy and sick people require water. There is no real difference. A corporation sees that they can make money from people, from humanity, so they jump on the opportunity. They have no obligation to the consumer; they have an obligation to their board of directors, and to their shareholders. The concept is roughly the same. They are the companies looking to make profits. Proponents of privatization state they can offer a more efficient system. However this for the most part is an…