Report identifies global trend to reverse the privatisation of water

Date of release: Friday, November 14, 2014

Report identifies global trend to reverse the privatisation of water More than 180 cities and communities in 35 countries have taken back control of their water services in the last 15 years, a new report reveals. The report was released today by the Public Services International Research Unit at the University of Greenwich along with the Transnational Institute (TNI), and the Multinational Observatory.

The report, Here to stay: water remunicipalisation as a global trend shows that negative experiences of water privatisation are persuading policy makers that the public sector is better placed to provide quality water services and promote the human right to water. This is despite more than three decades of privatisation and public-private partnerships (PPPs) promoted by international financial institutions and national governments,

The return to public control of water services, known as remunicipalisation, is taking place around the globe, including in prominent cities such as Paris, Berlin, Atlanta, Buenos Aires, Johnannesburg and Kuala Lumpur. Remunicipalisation is also accelerating: 81 remunicipalisations took place in high-income countries between 2010-2014, double the number of the five previous years. Over the same period, there have been very few new cases of water privatisation in large cities.

Most noticeably, according to the report, remunicipalisation is surging in France, the country with the longest history of water privatisation and home to the leading water multinationals. 

The report authors argue that remunicipalisation has led to enhanced access and quality of service, as the new public operators have reinvested resources in developing the local service instead of maximising profits. Equal or greater efficiency of public water services and lower prices can be observed in cities as different as Paris (France) and Almaty (Kazakhstan). In some cases, such as Grenoble (France) and Buenos Aires (Argentina), the new public operators have dramatically increased investments in the water systems. Other municipalities have also taken advantage of remunicipalisation to strengthen accountability and public participation.

Lead author Emanuele Lobina, Principal Lecturer in PSIRU in the University of Greenwich Business School, says: “This report challenges conventional wisdom that water privatisation is the only game in town. It shows that water remunicipalisation has emerged as a global trend and is here to stay. This trend is fuelled by the false promises of water privatisation and PPPs - poor performance, under-investment, soaring water bills, lack of transparency and poor service quality.”

In an interview in the Guardian this week, Emanuele says that bringing water services in England back into public hands could yield savings in the range of £900m a year and that these resources could help tackle rising water poverty.

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Story by Public Relations