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Providence City Council to weigh resolution against Elorza’s water ‘monetization’ scheme



Providence City Councilors Rachel Miller (Ward 13), Katherine Kerwin (Ward 12) and Seth Yurdin (Ward 1) will be introducing a resolution at Thursday night’s City Council meeting “in opposition to any and all forms of monetization and/or privatization of Providence water supply and sewer and of Scituate Reservoir.

The resolution also stands in opposition to H5390, a bill introduced at the state level by State Representative Scott Slater (Democrat, District 10, Providence). The same legislation was introduced in the State Senate by Senator Maryellen Goodwin (Democrat, District 1, Providence). This legislation would allow the monetization of Providence Water to proceed.

See: City of Providence announces introduction of Water Authority State Legislation; Community meetings announced

“To consider removing control of our water from the public hand’s in 2019, when access to affordable, quality water is a global risk, is a short-sighted proposal,” said Miller. “What we know from communities across the country, is that when private entities manage public resources like water, rates go up, quality goes down, worker protections are eroded, and the environment is threatened.”

“Water monetization is being presented as the only option in a financial crisis,” said Kerwin. “But, our city spending priorities don’t align with the idea that we are in crisis. There are options we have not yet taken, and after hearing from countless members from my community, I feel selling water, one of our most precious assets at the expense of raising water rates, should be our last resort.”

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“It’s not credible that the City of Providence will somehow receive hundreds of millions of dollars today without residents, rate-payers and employees bearing the cost for future decades through higher rates, lower wages and potential water quality issues,” said Yurdin. “It’s a false choice to pit our water supply against the city’s fiscal health. No one disagrees that the city faces long-term financial challenges, but the water-transfer scheme is yet another one-time fix with serious long-term costs to our community.”

The resolution was crafted in partnership with the Land and Water Sovereignty Campaign, a group led by Black, Indigenous, people of color, and environmental advocates. They shared the following joint statement:

“Water is an inalienable human right and shouldn’t be commodified. Monetization /privatization would negatively impact our most vulnerable communities and our environment. Over 600 cities and towns have already suffered the negative effects of monetization/ privatization. We oppose Mayor Elorza’s bill H5390, and we call for a moratorium of all negotiations and actions leading to monetization/privatization.

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Steve Ahlquist is Uprise RI's co-founder and lead reporter. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for nearly a decade.