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August 11, 2003

To many Americans, the very idea of water privatization is unthinkable. Why would anyone hand over precious water resources to huge multi-national companies and let them sell water back to ordinary citizens? In case you haven't noticed, water is already being privatized at a rapid rate in the U.S. and it's about to become much more common.

The reason it's happening in the United States is because our water delivery system is old and needs repair; this repair is too expensive for local governments, so they are turning to private companies, mostly from Germany and France.



Well the American Water Works Company must be American, right? Not any more. American Water Works, which is an old American company, was bought by the massive German utilities company, RWE, A.G. RWE's motto: "Alles aus einer Hand".

Here's a blurb on the company:

Founded in 1898, RWE AG is a German utilities corporation that provides electricity, gas, water and wastewater, as well as waste disposal and recycling services to customers worldwide. Combined with its subsidiaries, RWE is now the third largest water services company in the world, supplying services to 70 million people worldwide. In 2001, RWE revenues exceeded $50 billion and the company was ranked 53rd on Fortune magazine’s Global 500. In January 2003, the company completed its acquisition of American Water Works, which provides water and wastewater services to 15 million people in the United States and Canada.

What about United Water Services? Nope. It's owned by the giant French firm Suez. Here's a blurb about Suez:

French-based Suez was formed in 1997 by a merger between Compagnie de Suez and Lyonnaise des Eaux. After the merger, the company’s name became Suez Lyonnaise des Eaux and was subsequently shortened to Suez in 2001. Suez’s water and wastewater business, which is run through its subsidiary Ondeo, is the second largest in the world. Suez provides water-related services to more than 115 million people worldwide. Its other business areas are electricity, natural gas, water and waste management. Suez also maintains interests in television and broadband distribution. In 2001, Suez was ranked 99th on Fortune’s Global 500, and in the same year it was ranked 19th in the world among companies with the greatest international presence, according to the United Nations World Investment Report. In the summer of 2002, Suez merged its water and wastewater services into a division called Suez Environment.

The background information here comes from the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. See links in the sidebar.




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