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Our Communities, Our Water: Connecting the Local to the Global

Our Communities, Our Water: History

Over the last decade we have seen a significant rise in attempts by multinational corporations to gain control over one of the last great sources of available public funds, local municipal budgets. Almost every community has begun the slow devolution from the public sector model to the corporate model. The process of globalization has accelerated this push for privatization, and the threat to publicly owned and operated water delivery systems grows every day. This has most recently been made clear in communities such as Lawrence, Lee, and Holyoke, MA and there seems to be no retreat from these resource grabs.

With promises of greater efficiency and cost savings for strapped communities, corporations have begun making in-roads into what has always been a relative safe haven for local control and autonomy. However under scrutiny, these promises do not hold up and instead threaten communities with higher water rates, lack of local accountability, loss of community jobs, and threaten community water conservation programs. (Under privatization, the incentive to promote conservation is lost as corporations try to maximize their profits.)

But as shown in communities across Massachusetts once the facts are brought into the light, the community almost overwhelmingly chooses to maintain local control and accountability. Our project work with "Our Communities, Our Water" will aid in the education of local communities around this issue and ensure that every community faced with this issue will be well informed before they choose their respective path.

Currently the question of who will own water delivery systems is being driven by corporate interests (Suez, Veolia, Thames, and others), their paid lobbyists, and heavily subsidized cross-over government groups (i.e. National Conference of Mayors). The best interest of communities is not part of the discussion neither is the potential long-term impacts to our environment that come with the loss of accountability on a local level.

 

First 18 Months of Work

We are currently in the second year of a project called "Our Communities, Our Water" where we have created a grassroots-organizing model that has brought the issue of control over our water into the public light and into the public consciousness.

Screening the movie Thirst

Thirst takes a piercing look at the conflict between public and private stewardship, and the claim that water is a human right versus a commodity. Recently broadcast nationally on the PBS series, P.O.V., Thirst  is a powerful look at the issue of water and who will control its future. After each screening there is a dialogue with a Massachusetts Global Action organizer, about what Massachusetts communities need to know about multinational corporations and the issue of maintaining local control over our resources. We have screened this movie 83 times so far as well as ensured that other organizations have access to this film so that they may conduct their own set of screenings.

Surveying and Mapping the State of Massachusetts

We have created a survey/questionnaire/indicator for statewide use in determining where cities/towns stand on the issue of privatization. This survey/questionnaire/indicator will determine which communities are currently privatized, and which communities are faced with this possibility in both the immediate and near future. This will allow us to determine where we need to be most pro-active in our organizing. This information will be available on a public website that will allow local activists to easily access all the necessary information on their city/town along with information on other organizing resources that will help them with any local campaigns around the issue.

Forums on "Globalization, Privatization, and Water: Our Needs, Their Profit"

A two-hour presentation and training on this issue has been presented at Universities all across Massachusetts. Each one has featured presentations from Massachusetts Global Action, and two other organizing partners, hour of Q & A's, and then a hour of what we can do here in Massachusetts to maintain local control over our cities/towns natural resources.

One day Conference on "Globalization, Privatization, and Water"

Our Massachusetts event in early 2005 pulled together (50) water activists from across the state to dialogue about this issue and to introduce the surveying, move towards the creation of water watch councils, and to review ideas for legislative support around this issue.  

30-page Report on Water Privatization in Massachusetts

To support our work we have a 30-page report that relates the issue specifically to Massachusetts. This has been distributed to 5000 influential people in the state including elected officials, church leaders, editorial page writers and reporters, union organizers and community activists.

Municipal Resolution

We have just added on this program work aimed at facilitating local municipal resolutions in support of public control of water resources. We see this as a valuable way to begin a pro-active discussion in communities across Massachusetts around the question of who will control water resources. (We did submit statewide legislation HB1333, last year but it has never gotten out of committee)

Water Watch Councils/Legislative Support

Working with other water activists and organizations we will set up water watch councils to serve as local eyes, ears, and voices around this issue. These councils will allow for pro-active organizing, as well as a first alert system for any encroachment upon public ownership of local water systems. More specifically they will lend their support to MGA legislation that is intended to prevent corporations from controlling municipal water systems.

 

MassGlobalAction 33 Harrison Ave. 5th Floor, Boston, MA 02111 (t) 617-482-6300 (f) 617-482-7300