Water Privatization Nixed in Stockton
The city council of Stockton, California, voted unanimously on July 17 to abide by the San Joaquin County Superior Court's decision to end a $600 million, 20-year water and sewer services contract with the OMI/Thames company, the largest water contract of its kind west of the Mississippi. Since 2001 Stockton citizens, like those pictured at rally above, have fought for local control of the water system, arguing that privatization opened the door to harmful environmental impacts to the surrounding water delta and decreased the public's say over how the systems were managed. Their fight was featured in the documentary film, "Thirst: Fighting the Corporate Theft of Our Water."
When in 2003 the Stockton city council decided on privatization without a public vote, the Concerned Citizens Coalition of Stockton, the Sierra Club, and the League of Women Voters appealed to the courts that the city did not abide by environmental requirements before signing the contract. OMI/Thames recently proposed severe budget cuts in several areas, including system maintenance, waste disposal, and sewage overflows, prompting the Superior Court to call for the city to terminate the contract. With the city council's vote, public operation and management of Stockton's water systems will be renewed by March 1, 2008. "Water management is too important to be left in the hands of private companies who answer to shareholders and not to the people whose water they control," says local Sierra Club volunteer Dale Stocking. "We hope this will serve as an example and inspiration for communities around the country."