Keep water supply in public hands

July 19, 2012

Kevin Rector ("Break in Light St. water main disrupts downtown," July 17) presents jarring evidence of the pressing need facing our public water systems. In the last 35 years, federal investment in our most essential public service has all but dried up, threatening the sustainability of our aging infrastructure. This leaves our systems vulnerable to abuse by the water industry.

Over the last several decades, local and state officials and ratepayers have shouldered a growing portion of support for public water systems. Baltimore has made keeping water in the hands of democratically-elected public officials a priority, despite the decrease in federal funding from covering 78 percent of water funding in the 1970s to a paltry 3 percent today.

Seizing on slimming water budgets, the water industry has aggressively pushed private control of public water. This is a backward approach for an essential public service. When profit is the bottom line, private corporations cut corners in ensuring water safety and quality to save money. Despite promises to the contrary, privatization often leads to rate increases and underfunded infrastructure.

Federal investment in public water systems creates jobs and profoundly stimulates the economy. Simply put, public water works. And as Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blakepoints out, "Until we have enough funds, we are going to continue to be vulnerable to things like this, and nobody wants that." Now is the time for President Barack Obama and members of Congress to prioritize this essential public service and reinvest in the tap.

Kristin Urquiza, Boston, Mass.

The writer is director of "Public Water Works!" at Corporate Accountability International.

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