Public Water Supply Acquisition


Grant Type: 

  • Leadership Program


Award Date: 

January 2006




Felton, CA

To hire Betsy Herbert as full-time staff for a one-year position as Project Liaison to coordinate acquisition activities as the Town of Felton, California attempts to purchase its public water supply system from a large multi-national corporation. Betsy will oversee and coordinate all of the acquisition activities over the next year as the San Lorenzo Valley Water District (SLVWD) negotiates for the purchase of the Town of Felton's public water supply. Eighty-five percent of the nation’s water supplies are publicly owned. However, recent trends suggest that a turnover of publicly owned water facilities will result in a much larger proportion being owned by large, multi-national corporations which purchase these water supply systems, mainly to service corporate debt. Aging (and therefore costly) infrastructure of water systems combined with fiscally stressed municipalities nationwide offer tremendous opportunity for this turnover. Private ownership advocates say that privatized water is fiscally more efficient. Privatization opponents cite rising prices for water, lack of checks and balances on water quality protection, environmentally destructive watershed land practices leading to environmental degradation of immediate water quality and downstream water quality, failure to recognize and protect public ownership of water and water rights, and transfer of assets out of local communities as reasons against private ownership. In January, 2003, RWE (a German multi-national company) bought California-American Water Company (Cal-Am) and became the state’s fourth largest water supplier. It now owns the water supply which is the subject of this project. In July, 2005, the voters of Felton, CA passed an $11 million bond to acquire the Felton Water System from Cal-Am, which had proposed to raise water rates by 74% in the first year alone. SLVWD is the authorized agency to own and manage the water system when it is acquired.

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