On November 6, 2018, Baltimore City residents voted to become the first major metropolitan area in the United States to ban water privatization. The decision was reached with most voters – 77 percent – casting ballots in favor of a “Question E,” declaring the inalienability of water and sewer systems. Effectively protecting them from present and future city charter provisions relating to operational or franchising rights.
After a growing concern that the city could sell this public infrastructure to for-profit ventures, this showcases a clear, shared political viewpoint to protect affordable water access for all; with many union leaders and activists in the area calling for these basic protections for lower income households. These recent country-wide elections also provide a changing view of public infrastructure, moving away from the privatization and further monetization of what were originally intended as public systems.
The concern of for-profit investors taking advantage of water systems in the United States isn’t new. In 2017, the film “Water and Power: A California Heist,” highlights the effects of geographic privatization on the public in California. With agricultural business moguls given open access to invest and profit off public systems, the state faces a restructuring of a necessity that changes wellbeing of its citizens. With much of said restructuring seemingly having links to contaminated drinking water and, in some cases, severe drought where water has been funneled to meet the needs of water-intensive, luxury products such as almonds.
In a state frequently fighting against large wildfires and severe droughts, we may be seeing the development of cities greater questioning the motives behind privatization of public infrastructure. Especially so when it’s effecting the health and safety of its citizens and environment.
View Food & Water Watch’s original release here.