Reader Dan on Water Issues

Water Solvable?

I want to discuss the political issue of water in a non-partisanand non-religious way. I am not an economist and only have sole proprietary business experience. I want to avoid Dem/Repub issues so I have included examples of ‘liberal’ actions by one of my own. I also could be labeled a slightly left of center person, although I am also personally surprised at being called just sort of right of socialist. I think of myself as atheist in this sense of economics, since I know I do neither believe in the invisible hand nor the inherent inefficiency of government. I do believe that human interests and belief drive market behavior and performance. I have chosen to go from local arenas to N. and S. America in this post, and have taken a position of strong caution.

As reported in the documentary Thirst, Snitow calls the under funding of public water systems and public infrastructure as a whole, “systematic” under the Bush administration:

“On water, President Bush says he wants to fund private companies to do it. He does not want to give money, even loan money, to government agencies at the local level to improve their own water systems.”

But this issue is not a partisan problem. As reported in “Thirst,” in 1997 the Clinton administration changed the law to the benefit of private companies. Previously municipal utility contracts were limited to five years, but Clinton changed it to allow contracts to be extended up to 20 years. “The rule change unleashed a wave of industry euphoria with predictions that private companies would soon be running much of what is now a public service,” they wrote. In the following five years, municipal water contracts with private companies tripled.

Lee, MA, fought this battle backed by a liberal Senator, so to speak, with a water company from Houston. The Boston area copes in a different way.

The South and North American continent are being looked at another way. To limit this post to this area might be useful at first, and a second post on world wide data on another might be useful, in that most of us have first hand knowledge of our own systems… There’s more information here and here, and here.

It seems to me the intense capitalization needed to renew water systems is a stumbling block, and that to date neither local government nor private companies have the nerve to invest the money needed. If true, then the profit motive, to me, might create huge problems in delivering safe water for drinking for regular people as opposed to mega-deals, which seem to represent a different sort of market altogether. Accountability and integrity at a local level means at least I can throw bricks through my selectman or water owner’s windows. I trust big corporations to have little interest in long-term difficulties of water as a commodity, and examination of performance to date is not encouraging.
This is in addition to ‘externalities’ such as this sort of problem. How this plays out in agriculture is probably different to some degree, but food is a different sort of problem.