Water privatization falling out of favor

The privatization of water systems took off globally in the ’80s and ’90s; now it seems to be going the way of ankle zippers and acid-washed denim. At last week’s World Water Forum, delegates voted to issue a decree supporting government responsibility for providing safe drinking water. As if on cue, Argentina last week announced it was severing its contract with the French firm Suez and handing control of its water supply to a new government-run entity. Protests against water privatization have cropped up in many Latin American countries in recent years, and the U.N.’s second world water development report, released last week, points toward one reason: it says the main beneficiaries of privatization have been relatively well-off urban pockets, not the poor. In the current climate of volatility and protest, many big multinational water-management companies are backing away from ventures in developing countries. Ironically, many big multinational bottled-water companies are now seeing their sales in the developing world soar.