A new video called Flow, about to be released should shake things up a bit.
It' s aimed at the bottled water companies, primarily.
But it also covers the World Bank deals which are forcing privatized water systems in urban areas, where there's lots of people to complain about the high costs and profits going to the corporations that own these water delivery systems.
In my last post, I told the story of the wealthy gold miner who owned the private water company that served water to the port city of San Francisco until 1930, when the City "municipalized" the private company and combined it with the new Hetch Hetchy water project and formed the SF Public Utilities Commission.
San Jose and much of Silicon Valley has gone in almost the opposite direction, although the public is still a strong partner with our local private water companies. In the local cities that have a municipal, rather than an investor-owned private water company, are those cities that wanted to contract for Hetch Hetchy water from the SFPUC. This arrangement was mandated by the Federal legislation, called the Raker Act, which authorized the construction of the dam in Yosemite National Park. Since San Francisco had long battled in court with the private Spring Valley Water Company, it was amenable to a requirement that none of the water or power from the Hetch Hetchy Project could be sold to any private company for resale. Municipal water and sometimes power companies were formed in the Peninsula and the South Bay cities of San Jose, Sunnyvale, Milpitas, Santa Clara, Palo Alto and Mountain View. In some cases like Mountain View and San Jose, investor-owned companies serve some if not most of the water to the residents and business in those cities.
According to their website, San Jose Water Company (SJW) was founded in 1866. SJW is an investor-owned public utility, and is one of the largest urban water system in the United States, serving over 1 million people in the greater San Jose metropolitan area. In the 1970's, the privately-owned Campbell Water Company was acquired by SJW, followed soon after by assuming the management of the municipally-owned Cupertino Water system. Most recently, San Jose Water Corp. has acquired the Canyon Lake Water Service Company in the state of Texas.
Recently, Rich Roth, the President of San Jose Water gave an address to the San Jose Rotary Club which naturally praised the benefits of investor-owned water system ownership, while pointing to many of the problems in the water supply situation we are facing in the coming years. Most of those problems are the result of the very conservative approach the leaders of this valley adopted for the last five decades, opting to obtain half our current water supplies from the State and Federal aqueduct systems, which draws all of its supplies through the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. Now that the Delta is in ecological collapse and threatened to be destroyed completely by sea level rise from global warming, all that supply is at risk and the $30 million per year mortgage payments for the construction costs of the two aqueducts are still due and payable by the Santa Clara Valley Water District.
But scarier than losing the Delta supply, which is water of marginal quality, is the ever-present threat that San Jose Water Company could be sold to an even larger conglomerate and business decisions could move out of their local Board Room to anywhere on the planet. This threat became very real just a few years ago when American Water Company made a buyout offer for SJW. While the deal was not closed, American Water Company now has three directors from the German company RWE AG, which now owns controllingr interest in American Water Company. These directors are the Chief Financial Officer, Chief Counsel and the head of their mergers and acquisitions unit of RWE AG.
A recent article in the Christian Science Monitor poses the Question: Is Water Becoming the New Oil?
Of course, almost everyone agrees, people can learn to live without oil, but not without water. If water is managed strictly as a profit center for investor-owned corporations, many fear that water will not be considered part of the inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
For a entertaining scenario of life with very little water, I recommend the hilarious musical stage play Urinetown.