Montana town wins back municipal water supply from private company

 
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The city of Missoula, Montana won a state Supreme Court case to exercise eminent domain powers to seize water from private utility companies, ending a lengthy and expensive legal battle.

On Tuesday, the Montana Supreme Court ruled 5-2 in favor of Missoula to turn over control of the municipal Mountain Water Company’s water infrastructure from a private company.

The high court upheld the Missoula District Court, which ruled last spring that the ownership of the water system by the city was “more necessary” than its use by a private company. The lower court’s opinion cited $48,000 that goes to "travel and entertainment," a $103,000"board of directors fee,” and $1.3 million for salaries of staff in California that it said made the cost of water the highest of any municipality in the state. Missoula was the only city in the state where a private company controlled the water supply.

The Supreme Court said this decision was based on “detailed factual findings.”

“The city desired to own the water system that serves its residents because city officials believe a community's water system is a public asset best owned and operated by the public,” the justices wrote in their decision.

Water commissioners set the value of the Montana Water Company’s water utilities at $88.6 million. However, because Montana Water Company’s former parent company, Carlyle Group, sold it to another owner during the legal proceedings, it’s unclear how exactly the transfer will take place.

The decision is also a reversal of a 1980's Montana Supreme Court ruling which had blocked an earlier effort by the city to wrest control of the water supply.

Mayor John Engen had waged a two-year legal battle that costed the city government nearly $6.2 million.

“I know that it has felt risky and expensive and long, but I’ve been convinced from day one that it was my responsibility to work with the community to figure this out and that the courts would help us get there,” Engen said, according to the Missoulian. “We have placed our trust in the system, and my sense is that the system has worked."

Justices Jim Rice and Laurie McKinnon gave minority opinions against the decision. Rice claimed the District Court had deprived Mountain Water of a constitutional right to due process, and McKinnon argued that the District Court had undermined policy issues surrounding public and private ownership.

Missoula is the largest city in Western Montana, with a population of more than 70,000.

Source: RT.com, Aug 3, 2016
             Fliuch.org, Aug 3, 2016


Slovenia Parliament green lights inclusion of the right to water in constitution

 

In a huge victory for the Right2Water movement in Europe, the Slovenian National Assembly has voted to begin the process of amending the constitution to include the right to ‘safe drinking water.’ This follows 55,000 Slovenians, nearly 3% of the entire population, signing a petition in favour of including the right to water in the constitution.

The recommendations of a commission set up to draft the constitutional amendment were approved by 65 votes, with the remaining 25 members either abstaining or not being present. The proposal thus reached the two-thirds necessary to kick of the process of including the right to water in the Constitution.

The text proposed by the Commission, and approved on Tuesday 12 July, states that drinking water ‘should not be treated as a commodity’  and defines drinking water provision as a ‘non-profit public service’.

The wording should protect water services for citizens from any future liberalisation initiated by the European Commission. It marks a big success for the trade unions and NGOs which have campaigned, both in Slovenian and across Europe, for the recognition of water as a human right that must be protected from privatisation.

The Right2Water campaign, initiated by EPSU, became the first successful European Citizens’ Initiative in 2013 when it submitted 1.9 million signatures in favour of guaranteed water and sanitation across Europe and against the liberalisation of water services. Slovenian surpassed the national threshold for signatures several times over. This widespread support for the right to water in Slovenia has now borne fruit with water rights set to be enshrined in the national constitution.

For more information about the Right2Water European Citizens’ Initiative go to http://right2water.eu/.

For press coverage of the Slovenian Parliament’s decision see http://www.delo.si/novice/slovenija/pitna-voda-spreminja-ustavo.html.

Source: http://www.epsu.org/article/success-trade-unions-slovenian-parliament-green-lights-inclusion-right-water-constitution

Note: Right2Water Europe is a completely separate entity to Right2Water Ireland – Fliuch.

Original article: fliuch.org, July 19, 2016


Bottled Life: Nestle's Business With Water

 Nestle CEO Peter Brabeck-Letmathe

Nestle CEO Peter Brabeck-Letmathe

The Story-The Truth About nestles

While the world's population continues to grow at an alarming rate, water is becoming an increasingly scarce commodity. The Swiss film "Bottled Life" documents the booming business with bottled water, by focusing on the global leader in this lucrative multi-billion dollar market – namely, the Nestlé corporation in Switzerland. Nestlé currently controls more than 70 of the world's bottled water brands, among them Perrier, San Pellegrino and Vittel.

Nestlé's annual sales of bottled water alone total some CHF 10 billion. And yet the company prefers not to discuss its water business – as Swiss journalist Res Gehriger discovered when researching this documentary film. The Nestlé management refused to give any interviews or assistance or to provide information. But Gehriger persisted, and discovered just how controversial and conflict-laden the company's international operations are.

 R es Gehriger Writer

Res Gehriger Writer

Water war in the USA

To be able to sell and make money from water, you first have to own it. In the case of Nestlé this applies to many parts of the United States, by far the biggest market for its booming bottled water business. Whoever owns land or has acquired leasing rights is permitted to pump as much water as he likes. In the rural state of Maine, Nestlé has purchased many such water rights and resources. Every year the company pumps out millions of cubic metres of water, for transportation in road tankers to huge bottling factories. In the small towns of Fryeburg, Newfield and Shapleigh, journalist Res Gehriger witnessed how Nestlé tries to stifle and suppress local opposition to its operations with an army of powerful PR consultants, lawyers and lobbyists.

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Nestlé's expansion strategy

"Bottled Life" focuses a critical spotlight on Nestlé's global expansion strategy in the business of bottled water. In the United States and Europe, the company sells mainly spring water with a designation of origin. In developing countries, however, the corporation pursues another concept – namely Nestlé Pure Life. This product is purified groundwater, enriched with a Nestlé mixture of minerals. Nestlé Pure Life was the brainchild of Peter Brabeck, a Nestlé man almost all his life, a former CEO and currently Chairman of the Board. Today Nestlé Pure Life is the world's top-selling brand of bottled water.

Test market Pakistan

Res Gehriger's research took him to Pakistan, Nestlé's test market for its Pure Life product. The company refused him access to its production plant in Pakistan – but Gehriger did get to see something of life outside the factory fence. In the nearby village groundwater levels have fallen dramatically, and the village fountain water is nothing more than foul-smelling sludge.

Nestlé Pure Life is a clever business concept. And particularly so in the developing world. In countries such as Pakistan where the public water supply has failed or is close to collapse, the company proudly presents its bottled water as a safe health-enhancing alternative. But for the overwhelming majority of consumers, it is an expensive out-of-reach alternative. In Lagos, for example, the mega metropolis of Nigeria/Africa with its population of millions, water always comes at a price. The scenario of a city in which everyone has to pay for life-giving water, is already a sad reality in Lagos. Families eking out an existence in the slums spend half their meagre budget on canisters of water. The upper class?  They purchase Nestlé Pure Life.

 Bottled Life documentary directed by Urs Schnell 2012.  Writern by Res Gehringer

Bottled Life documentary directed by Urs Schnell 2012.  Writern by Res Gehringer

Whitewashing the water business

Nestlé places great priority on promoting its image. And when it comes to water, it's Peter Brabeck in particular who does the promoting. As CEO – and even more so after becoming Chairman of the Board in 2005 – he developed a communications strategy which operates under such noble pretences as "Corporate Social Responsibility" and "Creating Shared Value." A preached philosophy – but a practised one?

In researching this film, journalist Res Gehriger comes to a sad and sobering conclusion. It is that of a company intent on amassing resource rights worldwide. With the aim of dominating the global water market of the future.

Nestle CEO Peter Brabeck-Letmathe Water is a human right  Company video

Nestle CEO Peter Brabeck-Letmathe Water is Not A Human Right - English Subtitles