Privatized Water

In NC, the right to clean, affordable drinking water and sanitation is threatened in many locations by contamination, poor service, and excessive rates charged by private water companies whose primary concern is their bottom line.

In our experience, public, locally-controlled utilities are most likely to offer quality, affordable water and sewer service. Through years of work with customers of these utilities, we’ve identified significant challenges faced by those served by privatized water and sewer companies, including:

Affordability of water and wastewater – Though water rates are rising worldwide for both privately and publicly owned systems, privately-owned utilities’ rates are higher on average than those of publicly-owned utilities for the same sized system. A Food & Water Watch study found for-profit companies charged households an average of $501 a year for 60,000 gallons of water — $185 more than what local governments charged for the same amount of water.

Water Quality – Water quality is often already poor in the chronically out-of-compliance systems targeted by privatizers, yet customers report continuing to struggle with the same problems after their system has been privatized, on top of higher rates associated with corporate water and sewer companies.

Customer Service – Private water and sewer companies do not have local offices across the state. Many customers who try to report service issues are met with a voicemail system or innefective customer service. This issue continues to be brought up by customers of Aqua NC and Carolina Water Service during rate case hearings.

Transparency – Private companies are less likely to be transparent than municipal systems. Companies may limit disclosure of operating information to protect access to operating strategies and to reduce costs associated with customer notification and interaction. Without full disclosure of information on operations, customers can’t act to protect their interests.

We work to address these threats to clean, affordable water by:

Researching privatization, rate-setting mechanisms and proposed legislation

Providing decision-making tools to local officials facing decisions about whether to sell or lease their water/sewer utilities to a private company

Organizing with privatized water customers to attend rate case hearings and give testimony

Connecting customers to the NC Utilities Commission and Dept. of Environmental Quality to report rate and service concerns