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Water Wars

What price OUR water?

What price OUR water? March 25, 2003 Dear All,
While most of the folks on the IFIN list have been pre-occupied with what is being put into their water, there are others who are worried about who is going to own this water. This article, written by a FAN member from Pennsylvania (Sandy Smith), makes it clear we have a lot to worry about. In many places local water supplies are being taken over by huge multinational conglomerates like Vivendi.

Having helped citizens battle multinational corporations taking over our municipal waste (resource) streams for 18 years (via collection contracts, private landfills, incinerators and more recently pyrolysis plants), I can testify to the insidious nature of this threat. In this battle, local governments become merely the middlemen for the diversion of our local tax dollars into multinational pockets. Municipal bonding becomes municipal bondage and the taxpayers usually find out too late. If you haven't read it, the book "When Corporations Rule the World" by David Korten is a must. Korten, like many others, sees the only hope in determined local grass roots efforts to keep their own resources in their own hands. In addition to taking over our water supplies, Vivendi is a key player in the incinerator business.

Those who are working on these Global control battles would do well to recruit those opposed to fluoridation. We are very conscious of protecting our rights to clean water and our right to informed consent to medication. Local control does not get more local than that! Please do what you can to inform your representatives on this global issue, and pass it along to anyone else you think ought to know about this. Paul Connett.

By Sandy C. Smith
Over one billion people have no access to clean water, every eight seconds a child dies of water-borne disease, 31 countries are facing severe water stress and by 2025 two-thirds of the world's people will not have enough water. Less than 1% of the world's water supply is suitable for drinking or agriculture. York County, Pennsylvania, is running out of water, piping more from the Susquehanna River. The U.N. predicted that competition for water would lead to increasing conflicts worldwide. Water will be the most valuable commodity, worth more then oil because we can't live without it. Fierce disputes are being waged between local communities and companies such as Coca-Cola and Nestle, aggressively seeking new supplies of water. Perrier is being taken to court by citizens in Michigan and Wisconsin over licenses to take huge amounts of aquifer water that feeds the Great Lakes. In India, whole river systems, such as the Bhavani River in the state of Tamil Nadu, have been sold to Coca-Cola even as the state is suffering a huge drought.

The World Trade Organization (WTO) has been meeting secretly to take over the world's water supply, including here in York County. The European water companies are powerful in the service industry lobby advising governments and trade negotiators in the drafting of these deals. International trade laws set up by General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) will undermine our local and state laws forcing us to receive the lowest standards set for our water and sewage treatment plants. The Canadian Polaris Institute (http://www.polarisinstitute.org) has secured and made public these WTO's GATS documents, which are putting great pressure on the United States to approve this quickly by a March 31 deadline.

It is obvious why the European Commission has put so much effort into keeping these documents secret. The U.S. Trade Representative and GATS negotiator will be reading and bargaining with documents asking for water along with other GATS issues that include the privatisation and deregulation of public energy, postal services, higher education and alcohol distribution. Other proposals would allow foreign firms to receive small business loans from Washington and require the "extreme deregulation" of private sector service industries such as insurance banking, mutual funds and securities. Red Lion will consider selling their water company to Pennsylvania-American Water Company. This is not the first town that has considered or done so due to rising cost. This is the United States; no matter who runs our water supplies, it is protected by our laws--WRONG. Pennsylvania-American was bought by a huge German utilities conglomerate company, RWE Aktiengesellschaft, that also bought Thames Water, of London, UK.

A few small municipalities in PA have sold their water systems to PA- Am. in the last few years, and now pay the Germans for their drinking water. PA-Am owns three sewage systems in Pennsylvania (sometimes under the auspices of American Water Services) and is interested in buying a municipal sanitary sewage system in Pennsylvania. The company brags about how it likes to turn its sewage sludge into a wonderful fertilizer product to sell back to us. Water for profit is taking several forms with transnational corporations seeking to cartelise the world's water delivery and wastewater systems. French companies (e.g. Vivendi) deliver private water services to more than 200 million customers in 150 countries; they are moving into new markets in the third world, where debt-struck governments are forced to abandon public water services handing over control of water supplies to for-profit interests. They charge for the full cost of water, including profits for shareholders, then the companies are able to impose rate hikes that are devastating to millions of poor people who can't afford their own water, forcing them to use cholera-laced water systems instead.

German companies are putting together giant investment pools using overseas government aid, private bank investments and public utilities funds in the recipient country. An arrangement called cross-border leasing, hires local contractors to run the water services. Some investment companies keep their money in tax havens, avoiding national taxes, and offer a deal to cash-strapped governments. These public-private partnerships guarantee the private investor huge profits from the public purse for many years. Corporations are constructing massive pipelines to carry fresh water long distances for commercial sale along with super-tankers and giant sealed water bags to transport vast amounts across the ocean to paying customers. The World Bank stated, "One way or another, water will soon be moved around the world as oil is now".

These forms of water privatisation are protected through the WTO and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). In effect, WTO/GATS give foreign investors the right to bypass the U.S. domestic court system and laws. Multinational companies will be taking over businesses in York County, Pennsylvania, and America. We need to demand that no U.S. offers are made through GATS on March 31 or any other time until a full consultation with our governors, attorney generals, state & federal legislatures, unions and citizen groups. The U.S. Trade Representative is Robert Zoellick. The main USTR GATS negotiator, Peter Collins, number in D.C. is 202-395-3000, fax 202-395-3891 or e-mailed: pc@ustr.gov. PA state and federal representatives must also be notified. It is important that everyone lets their wishes be known to their Congressmen as Congress gets the final vote. Most of our state governments are not aware. The Susquehanna could soon be under the control of a multinational company supplying water around the world for profit. You can make the difference--call and stay informed! FMI: PA Fair Trade Coalition Leon Oboler (610) 277-8506Public Citizens Global Trade Watch - Chris Slevin (202) 454-5140Local: Sandy C. Smith (717) 927-6412The EU request of the United States is available at:http://www.gatswatch.org/requests-offers.html

The best analysis of the GATS agreement and how it works, by the Center for Policy Alternatives This document is available at: http://www.citizen.org/documents/GATS-facing-the-facts-final.pdf
The U.S. schedule of commitments, which demonstrates what sectors we have already committed to GATS disciplines, and what state laws have been listed for exemption.
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