Gray Panthers of San Francisco
September 2007 Newsletter

Water, Water, Everywhere
And Not a (Free) Drop to Drink


Stockton residents demand vote on water      Bechtel threatened to take over SF water

"Water, taken in moderation, cannot hurt anybody,” wrote Mark Twain. But public water, taken by private corporations and sold back to the public for profit, can. Across the world, from Bolivia to Namibia, people are fighting against the privatization of their water.

In California, water privatization has been successfully overturned by local citizens in Montara and Stockton, but after years of rising water prices and deteriorating service, residents of Felton and Monterey are still unable to regain control of their water systems from California American, a subsidiary of the giant multinational RWE.

Many view the bottled water fad, from which multinational companies are making billions by putting virtually free water in plastic bottles and selling them to the public, as contributing to privatization. One man described seeing people at O'Hare airport in Chicago walking past drinking fountains to buy bottled water. Some months later, the drinking fountains were removed and replaced by a “hydration center” where bottles of water sell for $3 each.

“I see this as a breakdown of community,” he writes. “The water systems we enjoy in the country are the result of citizens banding together and taxing themselves to promote the common welfare. I believe if this trend continues, it will become harder to pass maintain these services.”

Recent news reports have also pointed out the horrendous environmental consequences of the manufacture, transport and disposal of 60 million plastic water bottles a day. Moreover, plastic bottles, which leach bisphenol-A into the water, purportedly have an adverse health effect.

The UN estimates that today more than a billion people lack access to safe drinking water, and by 2025, the number will rise to 5 billion—that's two-thirds of the world's population. Multinational corporations now privatizing water worldwide are well aware it is becoming a scarce commodity. It is essential to keep our water supply safe and public.

"Democracy Now" Aug 1, 2007 program on Stockton's reversal of water privatization.

PBS website on "Thirst", the movie about water privatization.

"Thirst" website, with updates on water privatiztion fights from around the world.

(back to September 2007 Newsletter front page)