The US and other governments are pushing a failed model of water privatization, writes Victoria Collier - but water is a human right, not just a commodity to be traded for profit or monopolized by corporations, and citizens and communities worldwide are fighting back, from Detroit to Cochabamba, from Berlin to Malaysia, to reclaim their water commons.
Earlier this month on 5th February, New Jersey became the latest state to subvert democracy by authorizing the fast-track sale or lease of water utilities without public notice, comment, or approval.
The controversial decision highlights the intensifying struggle over who owns, controls, and profits from the most precious - and threatened - resource on Earth.
We tend to associate corrupt water privatization schemes with the developing world, where according to the World Health Organization, nearly 2.6 billion people still lack a latrine and 1.1 billion people have no access to any type of improved drinking source of water.
In this crisis environment, the World Bank and IMF have spent decades imposing water privatization as a condition of their exploitative loans, profiting a handful of transnational water corporations. But according to renowned food and water rights advocate Maude Barlow,
The performance of these companies in Europe and the developing world has been well documented: huge profits, higher prices for water, cut-offs to customers who cannot pay, little transparency in their dealings, reduced water quality, bribery, and corruption.
Double diasaster for impacted communities
Water privatization has also followed on the heels of war and natural disaster in devastated regions where massive reconstruction projects are needed. These are the largely unregulated profit-centers of what journalist Naomi Klein coined the "disaster capitalism complex".
But now, disaster capitalism has come home to the United States. Private corporations are taking advantage of lucrative opportunities created by the intentionally crippled tax base of American states.
Decades of neo-liberal policies have bled the public sector to the point of collapse: deregulation, outsourcing, tax cuts for the one percent, and trillions lost annually to war spending, corporate welfare and off-shore tax-havens.