As an Australian I was appalled to read this article in the Sydney Morning Herald that Australia is one of the only countries in the world where private companies and investors can buy water rights, a resource that is commonly in short supply in this country but shrewd foreign investors are spending billions of dollars to snap up Australian water rights taking ultimate control over our water.
It seems there is a worldwide rush by private investors to own and control water rights with the knowledge and belief that in the next decade it will be the most valuable asset in the world already being referred to as ‘blue gold”.
Another blogger here John Caldecott, head of the Water Action Coalition in South Australia, who keeps us informed about the ongoing struggle here to protect water forwarded this information regarding the mass action by the Italian public to prevent similar ownership in their own country.
Italy water privatisation referendum campaign ends
Wednesday, July 21st 2010
“The campaign to hold a referendum against a recent law privatising water services in Italy has drawn to a close with over 1.4 million signatures deposited at the supreme court of cassation in Rome. This is nearly one million more than are needed to call a referendum and, according to campaigners, represents a huge success for democracy and civic participation in Italy. The campaign was organised by the Forum Italiano dei Movimenti per l’Acqua, a network of national associations and local committees that are opposed to a 2009 law requiring greater participation by private investors in the management of water services, which is still largely the prerogative of local authorities. From 2012 water supplies must be managed exclusively by private companies or by mixed public-private enterprises where the private investor holds at least 40 per cent. In addition local authorities with a stake in utilities listed on the stock exchange are asked to reduce their shareholding gradually to a maximum of 30 per cent by the end of 2015. Proponents say the law is needed to improve efficiency in the system, which currently loses on average 30 per cent of its water through leaky pipes and theft. However critics argue that water is a common good and a universal right and that as such it cannot be subject to the laws of the free market. The signatures now have to be validated by the court of cassation and the referendum proposal approved by the constitutional court before voting can take place. If all goes to plan campaigners hope the referendum will be called in spring 2011.”
Italy: Water is not for sale
Public Services International
“The Italian Supreme Court of Cassation is considering a petition to defend water as a common good and to remove it from the grasp of the private market.”There has been an extraordinary mobilization, more than 1.4 million people have participated,” said Paolo Carsetti of the Forum Italiano dei Movimenti per l’Acqua (Italian Forum of the Movements for Water), a national network that has been collecting signatures for a referendum against the privatisation of Italy’s water system. The Italian parliament has passed legislation that will force local administrations to hand over management of the water supplies to entirely private companies or to mixed public-private enterprises where the private investor holds at least 40%, as of January 2011. The Ronchi Law accelerates a move to privatisation that began years ago. The Forum Italiano dei Movimenti per l’Acqua says there has been a corresponding reduction of investment in the water supply sector (between 700 million to two billion Euros per year between 1995 and 2005). Although water distribution networks have been neglected and have experienced degraded performance, this has not prevented the authorities from increasing water supply rates, by as much as 300% over the past eight years in some areas. Once the 500,000 signatures needed for a referendum call are validated, the constitutional court must confirm the proposal. Only then can a date be set for the referendum. If all proceeds as activists hope, the vote to abrogate the law may be possible by June 2011. Citizens are drawing inspiration from widespread support both inside and outside of Italy. Carsetti noted that even the City of Paris recently returned management of the water service public hands, “when Paris had been the heart of the empire of water multinationals such as Suez and Veolia.”
So back to more local water news and here is an update on where SA’s water issues are:
In South Australia the Rann Govt initially removed the submissions to the Water For Good Draft Industry Water Act. Water Action Coalition (WAC) met with Caica at the end of July and one of the issues raised was the removal of the submissions and the draft Water Industry Act. They are planning to come up with a new version of the water act by the end of the year but my submission John E Caldecott is in the list.
No matter where you reside in Australia we are all Australians and water is a crucial element not only to our living standards in this country but to our survival. I urge you all to become informed, remain vigilant and ensure the protection of our Australian Water Rights. We will do our best to keep you informed about this and other water news as we find it around Australia.