Public-Private Predicament

Neda Simeonova
More cities across the U.S. are considering selling municipal water and sewer systems to
private companies due to shrinking budgets and revenues.
Currently, millions of Americans receive water services from a privately owned utility
or municipal utility operating under a public-private partnership. Privately owned
water utilities are able to provide safe, reliable drinking water to their customers. These
systems are subject to public health and environmental regulations at the state and federal
level, as well as economic regulation at the state level by the various state public utility
commissions, which oversee and set water rates.
Despite the fact that the majority of public-private partnerships are renewed annually,
most Americans say they prefer to receive their drinking water from government
agencies. Rate increases under private operation also remain a major concern.
As municipal budgets continue to shrink, do you think that most operation and
management of water—a vital resource—should remain in public hands, or do you think
that the number of privately owned water utilities will continue to grow?

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