How Privatizing Water Systems Costs Taxpayers — & Endangers Them

Illustration by Lisa Lee Lucas for Heavy

A yearlong investigation by Heavy found that privatized water management has been a disaster for American towns, with residents paying 59% higher fees for water, on average; suffering high-profile health problems; and bracing for an infrastructure time-bomb.

Residents of contracted towns, from Indiana to Florida, are commonly paying almost $200 more each year, while some Eastern cities have found life-threatening lead in tap water as part of the wreckage left from their contracts. And it’s set to get worse, with both the Trump administration and numerous local authorities pushing to privatize, despite the devastating number of failures.

Crystal Fortwangler was teaching a course on environmental justice that touched on the Flint water crisis when she got a note in the mail about her own water system in Pittsburgh. Below the boilerplate text on water quality there was a short notice from Pittsburgh’s privately run water authority indicating that the city’s water had tested higher than normal for lead — and offering residents an option to have their own water tested.

Fortwangler, then working as an assistant professor at Chatham University, thought a test might make for an interesting exercise for environmental […]

More about the cost of water and aging infrastructure:

Baltimore Is A Water Justice Leader

Water rates in Baltimore jump 9.4 percent, third hike in as many years

America has a water crisis no one is talking about

EPA drops rule requiring mining companies’ funding to clean their pollution

Potential Health Effects of Municipal Water Reuse in Kansas

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How Privatizing Water Systems Costs Taxpayers & Endangers Them
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How Privatizing Water Systems Costs Taxpayers & Endangers Them
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A yearlong investigation by Heavy found that privatized water management has been a disaster for American towns, with residents paying 59% higher fees for water, on average; suffering high-profile health problems; and bracing for an infrastructure time-bomb.
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Heavy
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