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Paris public water success damaging to private companies

11 July 2014
Private water companies Veolia and Suez, who controlled the Paris water supply from 1985 until its remunicipalisation in 2008, say "The Paris remunicipalisation decision has done a lot of damage to our profession." More and more cities are choosing to bring water back into public hands.

Since the success of Eau de Paris, the remunicipalisation of water services in the French capital, other French towns with a combined population of about 1.4 million people - including Rouen, Saint Malo, Brest and Nice - have also decided to go back to public water management, according to EU public water lobby Aqua Publica Europea.

An October 2013 study of French water prices by consumer group UFC Que Choisir found that for French cities of more than 100,000 people, those with the cheapest water rates were nearly all run by public bodies, while those with the most expensive were mainly run by Veolia or Suez.

Other European countries are also backing away from privatisation. Italy rejected further water privatisation in a 2011 referendum, and Berlin has also chosen the public option.   

In February this year, PSI was part of the campaign that made the first successful use of the European Citizens' Initiative - a 2012 addition to EU treaties aimed at boosting direct democracy. The Right2Water petition organised by public water unions gathered 1.7 million signatures against water privatisation.

The phenomenon is not uniquely European. NGO Transnational Institute's remunicipalisation tracker lists several developing countries where water has been brought back into public hands and cites Ghana as an example of where a privatisation failed and water is back in state control. Only last month, local authorities in Morocco blocked a deal by Veolia to sell its local water, wastewater and electricity businesses due to a dispute over investment, and said one option was for them to take back control of the unit.

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