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United Water Inc

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United Water, Inc is the United States' second-largest private water service provider. Headquartered in Harrington Park, New Jersey, United Water, Inc operates in twenty five US states and serves "both as an owner-operator of regulated utilities and as an operator of municipal and industrial systems through public-private partnerships and contract services." [1] The water provider has been repeatedly criticized as responsible for some of the nation's worse privatizations.[2]

Paris-based Suez Environnement, a global water and waste treatment company, is the parent company of United Water.

United Water, Inc is a direct member of the international private water lobbying federation AquaFed.


Criticism

Public Citizen has reported that, when "United Water grab[s] control of a city’s water system, a top priority is cutting costs, because low costs mean higher revenues... [United Water] slashes water system staffs to inadequate levels, fails to perform necessary maintenance, tries to delay or avoid altogether any costly infrastructure investments, screams for higher rates, more money from government or both, and blames public officials, or just the public, for all the company’s problems. Customers end up paying more for less."[3]


The national consumer advocacy group Food & Water Watch released a report in January 2010 criticizing United Water New York’s proposed desalination facility for the Hudson River. "[The facility] is a classic example of how the interests of private water companies starkly conflict with the needs of the customers to whom they are providing this essential resource,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch. “Rockland County residents have voiced a preference for conservation and other low-cost, low-impact water-delivery options, but United Water has instead chosen to pursue a high-tech method that would boost its profits.”[4] In addition to increased water rates and energy use, drawing from the Hudson River could result in drinking water that contains dangerous traces of radioactive chemicals.[5]


Communities Fighting Water Privatization

City of Indianapolis, March 2010

On March 10, 2010, City of Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard signed an agreement with Citizens Energy Group (Citizens), a public charitable trust, to manage the City’s water and wastewater utilities. The agreement effectively transfers the City's water services from the United Water to Citizens, which operates like a non-profit for community benefit. “With this agreement, I am rejecting privatization," Mayor Ballard said. "Our water and wastewater utilities will no longer be a political football. Local professional management, lower rates and outstanding service make Citizens the best choice to own and operate our community’s water utilities.” [6]


Camden New Jersey, January 2010

In December 2009, the City of Camden N.J. sought to recover $29 million from United Water after the N.J. State Comptroller found that the water provider's poor management had wasted taxpayer resources and exposed the population to health risks. [7] [8] Although Camden was also criticized for mismanaging the United Water contract, the independent audit compared United Water's service to that of developing nations, and said 45 percent of the company's water to the city was lost due to leakage, overflow, meter inaccuracies, and billing errors.[9] Rather than responding to this criticism by improving services, United Water filed a lawsuit for over $5.7 milllion against the City of Camden, alleging the city had not made required payments for two years. [10] [11] United Water contends that, because their contract with Camden had an arbitration clause, the city's lawsuit against them also constitutes a breach-of-contract. [12] [13]


Rockland County New York, January 2010

As discussed above, in the "Criticism" section, Food And Water Watch issued a report criticizing United Water New York's plans for a desalination facility drawing from the Hudson River. [14]

The Rockland Water Coalition comprises groups concerned with the status of Rockland County's water supply, watershed health, rivers, streams and aquifer. For their take on the Haverstraw Water Supply Project, visit [www.sustainablerockland.org] United Water New York provides information about its proposed Hudson River Water Supply Project at [www.haverstrawwatersupplyproject.com]

Corporate and Industry Affiliates

"United Water is a member of a global family of water companies"[2]

- Suez Environnement

- GDF Suez

- R+i Alliance

- Utility Service Company

Membership in industry-based organizations:

- American Water Works Association

- National Association of Water Companies

- Water Environment Federation

- National Association of Clean Water Agencies


Political Lobbying

United Water, Inc maintains a Political Action Committee (PAC), the UNITED WATER INC FEDERAL PAC (UW PAC). As of February 21st, 2010, OpenSecrets.org reports that the PAC contributed to the following candidates:[15]

Senate

Crapo, Mike (R-ID) $2,500

Gillibrand, Kirsten (D-NY) $1,000

Menendez, Robert (D-NJ) $1,000


House

Pallone, Frank Jr (D-NJ) $2,000

Pascrell, Bill Jr (D-NJ) $600

Rothman, Steven R (D-NJ) $1,500

Sires, Albio (D-NJ) $500


UW PAC contributions to other PACs: [16]

DNC Services Corp $7,500

New Millennium PAC (Affiliate: Robert Menendez (D-NJ)) $5,000

National Assn of Water Companies $3,000


References

  1. United Water "about us" page, accessed January 2010
  2. Corporate profile of United Water, Inc from Food & Water Watch
  3. Suez Environnement Profile, Public Citizen, accessed January 2010
  4. Proposed Rockland County Desalination Plant a Boon for United Water New York a Bust for Area Water Customers, Food & Water Watch Press Release, accessed January 2010
  5. Not Worth Its Salt, Food & Water Watch, accessed January 2010
  6. [1]
  7. N.J. audit says Camden contract with water company cost taxpayers millions, New Jersey Star Ledger, December 16 2009.
  8. [www.state.nj.us/comptroller/news/docs/camden_pr_final12-16-09.pdf N.J. State Comptroller Report] (PDF)
  9. Camden Water Provider Meets Criticism With Suit, Philadelphia Enquirer, January 30 2010.
  10. Camden Water Provider Meets Criticism With Suit, Philadelphia Enquirer, January 30 2010.
  11. Water Utility Seeks $5.7 Million from Camden, New Jersey Courier Post, January 30, 2010
  12. Camden Water Provider Meets Criticism With Suit, Philadelphia Enquirer, January 30 2010.
  13. Water Utility Seeks $5.7 Million from Camden, New Jersey Courier Post, January 30, 2010
  14. Proposed Rockland County Desalination Plant a Boon for United Water New York a Bust for Area Water Customers, Food & Water Watch Press Release, accessed January 2010
  15. United Water Contributions to Federal Candidates, OpenSecrets.org, accessed February 2010
  16. UW PAC PAC-PAC Contributions, OpenSecrets.org, accessed February 2010

External Links

United Water, Inc website

Corporate profile of United Water, Inc from Food & Water Watch

[3]