Rural Water - Quarter 1, 2018 - 11
FROM THE PRESIDENT
BY STEVE FLETCHER,
Recently, I was proud
COME AT THE
to testify before the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee
on the Environment representing NRWA's membership. The Congressional Committee was
considering changes to the Safe Drinking Water Act State Revolving Fund, including new policies
to promote the privatization of water utilities. I was testifying with the association of large private
water utilities, environmental groups and other national water associations. I wanted to make sure
the U.S. Representatives knew that all small and rural communities have the very important public
responsibility of complying with all applicable regulations and for supplying the public with safe
drinking water and sanitation every second of every day-and that small, local governmental water
utilities are all governed directly by local citizens to benefit local citizens. They only exist to improve
drinking water and sanitation in rural American communities. Often their formation resulted in public
or "piped" drinking water being provided to rural areas for the first time-with dramatic improvements
in public health. It is notable that it was not regulation that brought drinking water to rural America.
It was most frequently local volunteers organizing together, forming local governmental structures,
accepting debt to build the water utility, convincing neighbors to commit to pay off the debt, and
often volunteering their labor to build the water infrastructure. I wanted to counter the common media
narrative that rural and small community drinking water safety is of questionable quality by ensuring
them that drinking water quality in rural and small town America is very good.
Regarding policies to advance or encourage water utility privatization as a solution for small and
rural water utility challenges, I urged Congress to limit federal regulatory policy and initiatives to
compliance, rather than promoting water utility privatization. The federal government should leave
any decisions regarding privatization to the local citizens' discretion. Any federal government water
policy should acknowledge that private utility service is distinct in mission from public water utilities;
private-corporate water systems are a business (i.e. accountable to their shareholders) whereas public
water utilities are created to provide for the public welfare (the reason why public water continues to
expand to underserved and non-profitable populations) and are accountable to the public they serve.
NRWA has not opposed water supply privatization in principle. However, corporate water
companies should not be eligible for federal taxpayer subsidies. Private companies argue that they
have to comply with the same regulations. However, the distinction in mission between public and
private is the core principle that should be considered. Any federal subsidy that is provided to a
corporate water utility can't be separated from subsidizing that company's profits.
There is nothing inherently more efficient or more economical in the operation of a private water
utility versus a public-governmental water utility-and I urged Congress to not give any preferential
treatment to a private water utility. The decision for any local government to privatize or consolidate
should be determined at the discretion of local citizens; the people who are drinking the water and
paying for its treatment and delivery. Federal policy for water privatization should never come at the
expense of local government control and choice.
We will continue to urge Congress to respect local decisions.
It was great seeing those who attended the Rural Water Rally in DC. With all the changes
happening in our capitol, it was critical that Rural Water be seen and heard by our Senators and
Representatives. I thank each of you for your attendance, persistence and dedication to Rural Water in
conveying our message of clean, safe, quality water for all of America! ●