Aug 16, 2018

Illinois Renews Water Systems Viability Act Amid Controversy

The controversial water systems act provides private water companies more flexibility

Illinois renews water distribution act for privatization
Illinois renews water distribution act for privatization

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner signed an amendment to renew the Illinois Water Systems Viability Act, signed into law in 2013, which allows private water companies to buy out water utilities and distribute the costs across its existing ratepayers. The act has been renewed for another 10 years and in addition, the amendment removes a cap on the size of water systems that private companies can buy, as reported by the Chicago Tribune.

The amendment has been subject to controversy as consumer advocates fear it will increase the chance of a monopoly on municipal water service. Advocates argue the bill may allow private companies to grow unchecked and lead to higher tax rates. Private water companies, however, said that the bill would enable them to improve water quality and system reliability. They argue that it is still up to the individual municipality whether they sell to private water companies.

“It is important to remember that the opportunity afforded by this bill is simply an option for municipalities,” said private water company Aqua Illinois in a statement.

Across the country in Baltimore, Md., Mayor Catherine Pugh just signed legislation to ban privatization of the  city’s water system, asserting that water privatization removes transparency and public access to information for the essential resource.

“Transparency in operation, public access in information are essential to affordable water,” Grant said. “That’s exactly what privatization takes away.”