In August 2013, Allentown, Pennsylvania, rented its water and waste systems for 50 years because it did not have enough money to pay the pensions owed to its employees or to maintain its water system.
Allentown is not alone in turning to infrastructure privatization to deal with cash-flow problems. Indeed, Allentown is Anytown, USA, as cities, counties and states across the country privatize basic infrastructure built and paid for by prior generations. However, water is not just another type of infrastructure to be sold to the highest bidder. As NASA scientists know, water is life. …
…Allentown and the Lehigh County Authority are public entities with many strong ties to one another. Does that mean that their public-public, 50-year infrastructure contract is different from public-private infrastructure contracts? The answer is no.
The 195-page LCA-Allentown contract (not counting any attachments) includes the same recursive language generally found in infrastructure privatization contracts. For example, it includes Article 14, the Adverse Action provision. In contract after contract, that section gives private contractors the right to reimbursement for claims that the public partner has done something that deprives the private “concessionaire” of anticipated revenues….
….This is not the way true partners treat one another. So why did the LCA want to include such a term in its contract? Is the standard contract the only alternative?
In fact, Food and Water Watch promotes a different model – a PUP, a public-public partnership – that retains local and public control of existing water systems. This FWW report provides an overview of domestic and international PUPs and publicly owned water. Among the many models and resources are a crowd-sourced online book on international public water control and management, remunicipalization of water and resources from Water Justice, including information about reclaiming and protecting public water….