Our Precious National Fluids

Lest we get high and mighty about living in the freest, best-est nation in the world--the Property and Environment Research Center reminds us that our water is basically communist:

It is one of the great ironies of America. In the most capitalist, free-market nation in the world, most citizens receive their water and wastewater services from government entities. Contrast this with the United Kingdom, where almost all water services are provided by private systems.

While more than half of drinking water utilities in the United States are privately owned (National Association of Water Companies, 2008), they provide only 13 percent of Americans with their drinking water. And about 3 percent of Americans get wastewater services from the 20 percent of wastewater utilities that are privately owned.

Former EPA water administrator G. Tracy Mehan reports on his thirst for freedom here [PDF].

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  • Taktix®||

    Perhaps that's why we're the largest consumer of bottled water in the world.

    Market forces at work, anyone?

  • DannyK||

    Tell me how to privatize water services without leaving us open to a massive Enron-style market manipulation and water speculation racket, and we'll talk.

    Otherwise, I think we should leave water the hell alone, at least until January 2009.

  • Guy Montag||

    Public water vs. British teeth. This is a horror of Socialism that I can live with.

  • Guy Montag||

    Katherine,

    Love the Dr. Strangelove ref. :)

  • BakedPenguin||

    ...the Property and Environment Research Center reminds us that our water is basically communist:



    ...H2O of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but your drains!



    Ok, I'll leave now.

  • Guy Montag||

    If you people would stick with rain water and pure grain alcohol then we would not be in this mess.

  • the innominate one||

    hey, you haven't paid your oxygen bill!

    remit the monies to me immediately, or I'll cut off your O2 supply

  • ||

    Maybe in principle water should be privatized, but there have been enough instances around the world of large amounts of people getting screwed when it happens.

    Perhaps when we get out of Iraq and stop the billions in subsidies to irresponsible banking we can set the priority to water.

  • Guy Montag||

    Adamness,

    Were you the staffer for Sen. Jobn F. Kerry during the Swisse-cheesesteak incident in Philly a couple of years ago?

  • Kolohe||

    I agree with Adamness. I like free markets as much as this next guy, but public water/sewage is one of those areas where my small 'c' conservatism says 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it."

    And water works has one of the better ROI's anyway.

  • Kolohe||

    Ack, that should be lesser ROI's

  • ||

    Perhaps that's why we're the largest consumer of bottled water in the world.

    Market forces at work, anyone?


    Except we also have some of the cleanest tap water in the world.

  • ||

    POE
    OPE
    EOP
    EPO
    PEO
    OEP

  • ||

    Perhaps that's why we're the largest consumer of bottled water in the world.

    Correct me if I am wrong, but don't a LOT of bottled water producers merely bottle tap water?

    I know for a fact that Aquafina (Pepsi) and Dasani (Coke) get their water from municipal water sources and were forced via litigation to have to put that on the bottle now.

  • ||

    I don't avoid government, but I deny them my essence.

  • ||

    Were you the staffer for Sen. Jobn F. Kerry during the Swisse-cheesesteak incident in Philly a couple of years ago?

    Eh? No.

    I do know that when you're in Philly, you get the Wiz. That alone makes me more qualified to be president than Kerry.

  • Mike Laursen||

    Water rights is one of the most inherently political areas of human society. Even if we were all living in a near anarchotopia, there would still be haggling over water.

  • ||

    I imagine that a privatized water system would be more effective at sending market signals to low-income people who lack the motivation to improve their lot.

    Yay!

  • Mike Laursen||

    I imagine that a privatized water system would be more effective at sending market signals...

    This much of your comment is actually correct. Right now, the true price of water is obscured, often leading to wasteful usage.

  • ||

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but we don't pay for water. I thought we just pay for the service of bringing it back and forth from our homes. My mom told me that a long time ago, and I never really looked into it.

  • thoreau||

    Actually, joe, I suspect that the biggest impacts of a privatized water system would be in the agricultural sector.

  • Gilbert Martin||

    "While more than half of drinking water utilities in the United States are privately owned..."

    Yes and some of those are owned by the e-vil foreigners!

    Several years ago, I owned some stock in what was then the largest publicly traded water company in the U.S. - American Water Works. It was bought out by a German utiltiy company (and I made a nice profit on the shares).

    There will be a lot more government owned water utilites that get bought out going forward as well. There is huge amount of deferred maintainence on water systems that governments either can't or won't deal with themselves so they will sell out to companies to do it for them.

    Rolling up these utilities is the business model of water companies like Aqua America.

  • Mike Laursen||

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but we don't pay for water.

    It would really depend on the legal arrangements in the specific place where you live. For example, some farmers in Indio, California have sold their water rights to the City of San Diego, so some part of your water bill in San Diego would be to pay for that water. (Don't even know if I got the details right on that, but it's just an example of the type of arrangements that are made.)

  • Guy Montag||

    Wait, are we talking about real water or fiat water?

  • Gilbert Martin||

    I thought Fiat made cars - not water.

  • Mike Laursen||

    One of the places with fascinating water laws is New Mexico. They still have a system of community irrigation systems called "acequias". The community elects a respected member to be a "mayordomo" who makes a lot of the decisions about how the water is allocated.

  • ||

    sodium fluoride ingestion does not help cavities. Topical doses of sodium fluoride does. Sodium Fluoride is a serious poison, why do we ingest in completely arbitrary quantities? 1ppm of sodiuom fluoride is the most common target for public utilities....this means every liter of water has the same sodium flouride as a cubic centimeter of toothpaste.

  • Paul||

    Tell me how to privatize water services without leaving us open to a massive Enron-style market manipulation and water speculation racket, and we'll talk.

    I don't know, Danny, but I'm guessing that someone in the UK does.

  • Dr. Strangelove||

    Mr. President, we must not allow a public water gap.

  • ||

    Tell me how to privatize water services without leaving us open to a massive Enron-style market manipulation and water speculation racket, and we'll talk.

    The Enron-style market manipulation was not Enron-style, but government-style, by favoring one particular company over true privatization.

    The way to privatize is to sell the assets on each region at auction, and then let companies open their own water-distribution system without requiring special licenses and other tricky impediments invented by bureaucrats.

  • ||

    I live in Atlanta and earlier this decade our water system turned operations over from the city to United Water. It wasn't totally a private ownership - I still made my check out to the City of Atlanta. They did an OK job, but ran afoul of the city workers. Eventually, they were hounded out and turned it back over to the City of Atlanta.

    Since then my water bill has quadrupled.

    To be fair, the water system was in poor shape and needs a lot of upgrading. And I have a feeling there was no ay in hell a private enterprise would have been allowed to raise prices that much.

    Not really sure that private ownership of certain utilities is politically viable in the current climate.

  • von Laue||

    joe: is privatized natural gas and electricity distribution a problem for you?

    Oh wait, you were just trolling. Never mind. Go on with your bad self.

  • Mike Laursen||

    ...to low-income people who lack the motivation to improve their lot.

    Oh, and this last part of your comment is true of some low-income people. Not true of all. Oh wait, you were just trolling. Never mind.

  • Divine Rod||

    Am I the only one here with a well in the back yard??

    Bunch of city slickers I guess...

  • ||

    public water/sewage is one of those areas where my small 'c' conservatism says 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it."

    Unfortunately, the "ain't broke" part is not accurate. Water is not priced properly, and consequently vast quantities are wasted.

  • Vermont Gun Owner||

    Am I the only one here with a well in the back yard??

    Bunch of city slickers I guess...


    No, you aren't. Well water is far superior to town/city water. I can't stand to drink the tap water at school with all its gross additives.

    Don't forget private wastewater services (septic systems).

  • Guy Montag||

    Wow, all this bait for the Al Goreites to snap up and complain about "sprawl", but they jumped on a Ron Bailey thread instead. Alas, they are not as predictible as they sometimes seem.

  • Tom R||

    My teeth lack the straightness of an American braced set but the water here is great!

  • ||

    "Tell me how to privatize water services without leaving us open to a massive Enron-style market manipulation and water speculation racket, and we'll talk."

    Private water companies have always (or close to it) been heavily regulated by state Public Service Commissions, Departments of Health, Departments of Environmental Protection, Water Management Districts, County Commissions and so on. It isn't anything like energy markets.

    But if you must know the one huge reason why private water would never lead to Enron-style meltdowns: water systems don't require a threshold amount of water to stay functional, whereas electric grids do, thereby giving those who trade in energy significant market power even with a small market share. There really are no "spot markets" in water, but if there were, they wouldn't be prone to such manipulation.

  • Bruce Majors||

    There is an excellent way to save precious water resources and it should be made mandatory:

    http://www.superdeluxe.com/sd/contentDetail.do?id=D81F2344BF5AC7BBA570AF3E867D7ACCBB1D9B08C9E9F4CC

  • ||

    This is why I love libertarian websites. Privatize sidewalks! You're water's communist!

    This stuff was compelling to me when I was 13. I can't imagine how anybody over that age can find this kind of rhetoric interesting or persuasive.

  • ||

    Divine Rod: My grandmother has a well in her backyard, and it's pretty foul. It's barely good enough for showering, but they definitely don't drink it. I'll take my government water, thank you very much.

  • ||

    Privatization of public services has been a disaster in almost every circumstance - the only people who benefit from it are the profiteers and speculators, not the public who get degraded services at higher prices. Why would we want to try it again and hope for different results?

  • ||

    Vermont Gun Owner - we don't have too many backyard wells here in Brooklyn. But we do have damn good (public) tapwater thanks to the Croton resevoir and NYC's excellent water system.

  • ||

    If, by "privatizing water", you mean allowing private companies to charge fees in return for the service of delivering potable water to my house - then fine.

    If you mean something akin to a deal like that of Cochabamba, where Bechtel bought the rights to all water in the town and even collecting rainwater in buckets was "theft" - then piss off.

  • ||

    ChicagoTom is correct. Most bottled water is tap water, i.e., from a government-controlled origin.

  • ||

    the innominate one:

    Someone once said to me:
    "Some Libertarians want space colonisation because they long for the freedom and opportunities for technological development they expect it will bring...other Libertarians want it because they relish the thought of spacing people who can't pay for air."

    (I tend to agree with the character in "The Rolling Stones" who said, "An artificial colony has to have more regulations than a girls' school," and I don't think a lax girls' school was meant.)

  • ||

    Oh please. It's a natural monopoly. Market defects, price fluctuation, and other problematic effects associated with unrestrained capitalism can interfere with Americans' access to many products and commodities without causing much of a stir. However, when it comes to basic utilities, Americans like their state-owned monopolies. Case-in-point: California was pretty mad when Enron started playing games with energy, causing hug price fluctuation and brownouts. Water is the same. No one wants your stupid libertarian claptrap reform.

  • ||

    "Bless the Maker and all His Water. Bless the coming and going of Him, May His passing cleanse the world. May He keep the world for his people."

    Fremen saying, recited by Liet-Kynes, in the presence of Paul Atreides.

  • ||

    "If, by 'privatizing water', you mean allowing private companies to charge fees in return for the service of delivering potable water to my house - then fine.

    If you mean something akin to a deal like that of Cochabamba, where Bechtel bought the rights to all water in the town and even collecting rainwater in buckets was 'theft' - then piss off."


    I think we mean the regulated US version. I'm glad somebody realized that there is a difference though.

  • ||

    "While more than half of drinking water utilities in the United States are privately owned (National Association of Water Companies, 2008), they provide only 13 percent of Americans with their drinking water."

    Perhaps this is a matter of definition. Is an individual well a "privately owned water utility?" If so, then a lot of "privately owned water utilities" serve only one house.

  • ||

    Let's not forget that a lot of city utilities "subsidize" their water operations from tax revenues. That tends to encourage waste because improper price signals are sent. Not all, mind you. But some small towns have no business providing water.

  • Guy Montag||

    We all missed the biggest point of all: The government puts DHMO in the water to control us.

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