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JULY 2004
PUBLIC CITIZENS NEWS UPDATE

Can't sneak it in: California office battles bond fund giveaway
Late June is a busy season in Sacramento. It's when disgruntled
lobbyists scramble to find legislative hosts for gut-and-amend
bills-where lawmakers delete the entire text of an existing bill and
insert language on an unrelated issue-to then whiz through committees
without time for the public to catch on and weigh in. Assembly Bill 1647
is just such a bill. It resurrects the shelved attempt from last year to
allow private water corporations to receive grants and loans from
California general obligation bonds. This would be a devastating shift
in California public policy, and would bust open the door for private
corporations to siphon off of taxpayers to subsidize their acquisition
of public water systems. Public Citizen's California office caught on to
the bill just in time to rush to Sacramento and testify. The bill's
author however, pulled the bill from the agenda three and a half hours
into the hearing. A broad coalition of environmental, environmental
justice, consumer rights organizations and public water agencies are
organizing to stop the bill when it resurfaces in August after the
legislative recess. Please contact jabeck@citizen.org or 510-663-0888
ext 101 to help this effort.

New Report: Prepaid water meters is no solution
Water for All has published a new report "Orange Farm, South Africa:
The Forced Implementation of Prepaid Water Meters" in collaboration with
the South African coalition against water privatization and the
Anti-Privatisation Forum. The report is based on 193 interviews from
Orange Farm Township on the outskirts of Johannesburg. In the past two
years, some township residents have been used as guinea pigs for a
program that is set to be rolled out to all poor neighborhoods in
Johannesburg.  Prepaid water meters deny water users the right to water
as no money means no access to water. It has created a number of
conflicts in the township and the report foresees tremendous harm from
the roll out in other areas of the country. Prepaid water meters are
increasingly an "easy" solution used by decision makers in poor
communities to force upfront payments. The procedural issues around the
provision are highly questionable and the impact on marginalized
populations is devastating.  Find the report and more information on
http://www.citizen.org/cmep/Water/humanright/meter

Update: Highland Park residents still battling corrupt privatization
drive
After months of debates and constant refusal from the Highland Park
City Council, a suburb of Detroit, to approve a questionable non-bid
contract with inexperienced Rothschild Wright Group (RWG),
state-appointed officials, in leaked documents, indicate that they will
overrule the Highland Park council vote and approve a 10-year contract
to privatize their water system. The contract includes provisions that
allow RWG to bottle water from the public reservoir.  RWG proposed a
contract in a no-bid arrangement, but has shown no information on
experienced water management. The proposed contract holds Highland Park
financially responsible for potential costs, while ensuring RWG returns
of investment.  Find more information on
http://www.waterissweet.org/detroit/index.html or on
http://www.citizen.org/cmep/Water/us/other/detroit

Workers say NO to privatization plan in Peru
On July 14, there was a national work stoppage in Peru to protest
President Toledo's plan to privatize 13 14 water utilities in the next
three years.  A delegation from the water worker's union, FENTAP, came
to the U.S. beforehand on July 12 to meet with other public worker
unions, as part of a coordinated effort to stop a $50 million loan from
the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) to Peru that will require
municipalities to form public/private partnerships before they can
receive funding.  (FENTAP recently had a big win in the state of La
Libertad, where their local union led coalition successfully drove out
the private company managing the water and sewage systems of three
cities.)  The delegation was very excited to hear about Rep.
Schakowsky's "Water for the World" resolution that includes a clause
stating that international financial institutions such as IADB should
not approve loans that require public/private partnerships and other
forms of privatization.  The Peru delegation met with Rep. Jan
Schakowsky (D-Ill.) and Rep. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and received firm
commitments that they would write a letter to the U.S. Executive
Director of the IADB asking that this loan be stopped or the
privatization condition removed.  The letter will be circulated to the
Hispanic Caucus and all other members.

Private company hopes to cash in on Las Vegas water grab
Las Vegas thinks it's found the Big Answer to its drought stricken
water woes: poke holes in the ground up north, suck water from the
aquifer and pipe it to the city. It's a thinly disguised scheme to
enable the growth addicted and politically powerful development
industry. The state's congressional delegation is unanimously supporting
legislation that is ostensibly a wilderness bill but that would also
grease the skids on the plan by identifying pipeline corridors on
federal lands.  Meantime, an outfit called Vidler Water Co. has managed
to gain an interest in water rights in the vicinity of the pipeline
route. "We believe that Vidler's assets are favorably positioned to
contribute to the water resource solutions required in the Southwest,"
the company helpfully explains while referencing the Las Vegas water
grab in its annual report. Translation: We're sitting on this water and
waiting for the price to go up and then we'll sell it to the Las Vegas
for a bundle, yeehaw.  All of which was enough to prompt creation of the
Nevada Adhoc Water Network, a coalition of environmentalists, rural
citizenry, public interest organizations and others. They're fighting
the proposed legislation, calling instead for, among other things, a
serious analysis of Las Vegas water resources, uses and policy
alternatives  an analysis that isn't conducted by water officials
answering to politicians who are beholden to the development industry.
The pipeline portions of the water grab bill, officially known as the
Lincoln County Conservation, Recreation and Development Act, is
premature, unnecessary, would promote the commodification of water in
the arid West, and should be stripped from the legislation.

On the Go: Water for All representative goes to Berlin
Water for All participated in a workshop in Berlin in late June aimed
at developing a potential process for a global review of private sector
participation in water management. The meeting took departure from a
recent international scoping process including 300 stakeholders that
assessed the need for a global review. This scoping process was
initiated at the International Freshwater Conference in Bonn in 2001.
Participants at the Berlin multi-stakeholder workshop discussed the
findings and recommendations from the scoping report and the pros and
cons of different options for a multi-stakeholder review. The consensus
at the meeting was that a potential review must prioritize the need to
achieve affordable and sustainable access for the poor - with a long
term goal of universal access. The focus of the potential review is to
assess whether the private sector can contribute to fulfilling such
priorities. It was generally agreed that a potential review must depart
from a bottom up perspective prioritizing the needs of the poor.  The
PSP working group will undertake the initial work related to defining
methodologies and seeking funding. Stay tuned for updates.  The initial
scoping report is available on
http://www.wateraid.org/in_depth/news_and_events/5413.asp

New Economic Analysis: Coalbed methane drills holes… in taxpayer
wallets
Extracting natural gas from coal beds in Montana and Wyoming is a risky
venture and it's the public who will bear the costs, not the energy
companies who do the drilling, according to a new economic analysis
released in June by the Science and Environmental Health Network (SEHN).
 The report notes that the largest risk to coalbed methane drilling is
depleting groundwater in the semi-arid region of northern Wyoming and
southeastern Montana, commonly known as the Powder River Basin - a loss
that could cost taxpayers as much as $10.1 billion in current market
value.  To read the report, please go to http://sehn.org/pdf/cbm.pdf

ACTION ALERT! Watch the new documentary film about the birth of
corporations called The Corporation.  Read more here:
http://www.thecorporation.com

***NEW Water for All Reports***

Defend the Global Commons/ July 2004 issue
http://www.citizen.org/cmep/defend

COMING UP IN OUR NEXT ISSUE!
Public Citizen will be launching a new networking
catalog of organizations that work on water-related
issues across the U.S.


Juliette Beck
California Coordinator and Senior Organizer
Water for All Campaign
Public Citizen
510-663-0888 ext. 101
http://www.citizen.org/california

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