>Juliette Beck
>Water Privatization
>Juliette Beck is the California Director of Public Citizen's Water for All campaign,
>which aims to protect the right to clean, affordable water by increasing public
>oversight and stopping the privatization of this essential resource. Public Citizen
>is a national, nonprofit consumer advocacy organization founded in 1971 to
>represent consumer interests in Congress, the executive branch and the courts.
>Excerpts from the film Thirst, a groundbreaking documentary on how population
>growth, pollution, and scarcity are turning water into the oil of the 21st century
>will be shown, and Juliette will describe the Water for All campaign's approach
>to opposing the rush by corporations to gain control of this dwindling natural
Juliette began her talk by congratulating us all for being the very soul of a real democracy, in that concerned citizens coming together to talk about what the future's possibilities are is what keeps democratic systems alive and moving forward. Then she explained that the movie Thirst was too long to show in a compressed meeting like the one we had to share, so she would just show the parts about Stockton, California.

The movie started with what looked like a union crowd chanting "LET US VOTE! LET US VOTE!". The announcer then explained that the Mayor had found out that he could save $170 Million over 20 years by outsourcing the contract for the municipal water system, which boiled down to privatizing it to RWE/Thames Water, a German energy company for $600 million. A citizens group was formed to get people to look at the issue before it was too late, but they weren't able to get enough of the City Council to vote against the Mayor's wishes.

Juliette then explained that since then the savings that had been promised have turned out to be an illusion. The problem has been further augmented by the fact that the private company that came in had "pushed out" all of the senior people that knew what they were doing as a cost saving measure. The City floundered for a while in a situation where the price of water is being racheted up and nobody knew what to do about it. More recently a local judge has declared the buyout contract invalid. Appeals are pending.

Then she brought up Dan Stein from Mountain View who is working on ways to make the internet into a tool activists can use to fight back against these large corporations. His most recent creation is www.stopsuez.org, and he is currently working www.webdev4all.org.

During Q&A the following points came up:

Since Stockton the front line of the water privatization wars has moved to Felton, in Santa Cruz County. People there are gearing up to vote on the issue next fall. If you visit you will see lawn signs about the issue all over the place.

Up in San Mateo County, there are a few private water companies that are being taken public along the coast. Scott Boyd is involved with those efforts.

One of the driving forces for the privatization movement is the enormous debts that these large companies have accumulated by playing buyout games over the years. They just need the money to pay off their bankers.

It's not clear what the Mayor of Stockton got for leading his town down the privatization path. However, Juliette saw him in the background in a clip of Governor Schwartzenegger on the news just a day or two ago, so he must have gotten something from the experience.

The speakers also brought some great fliers from Public Citizen. One explains that clean water should be considered a human right, and that large corporations like Suez, Veola (formerly Vivendi), Nestle, and Coca-Cola would love to make profits by selling it to you. It also lists some of the warning signs your city might be playing footsie with these companies. The other explains that bottled water is often not the great health elixir the label advertises, and the packaging is a problem we don't need. It also mentions many cases where water bottling plants have caused water depletion and pollution problems for the surrounding communities.

For more information, please visit www.wateractivist.org .

Tian Harter