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lollersauce914 t1_j6oye9q wrote

Utilities in the US are generally considered natural monopolies. That is, it's unreasonable for a competitor to build duplicate infrastructure to compete. The costs are too high. Only one firm can really provide the service to a market.

As such, they're highly regulated. Prices, staffing, availability, quality, etc. are all highly prescribed by the local or state government.

So why not make them government owned? Well, it's a trade off. Public utilities tend to be less innovative and have less of an incentive to invest in improvements. Private ones have less of an incentive to provide stable, low prices and service.


PrionBacon t1_j6ozngg wrote

> Private ones have less of an incentive to provide stable, low prices and service.

Looking at you, PG&E


blipsman t1_j6oxtf9 wrote

Depends on where you live... many places DO have city water treatment plants/water supply. For example, here in Chicago our water is all municipal and everyplace in the area is government run/provided.


lollersauce914 t1_j6oyq4z wrote

I did a community emergency response training with a retired firefighter in the cook county suburbs.

He told us about when he was dealing with something involving effluent into a waterway and the director of the water reclamation district (who he had not met) showed up and started giving orders he asked one of his colleagues who she was and they just said, "she's god. You do what she says."

The city's water district is atypically powerful and just kind of weird in general.


RandyFunRuiner t1_j6oz1yw wrote

Really depends on where you’re at. Everywhere I’ve lived in the US, water was a public utility run and managed by the city or municipality. It may be the case that where you live, for a host of reasons, the city may have privatized the water system. Or it might actually be a public/private partnership and the public facing side of it might be the private corp.

But there’s no objective answer to your question.


hiricinee t1_j6p0sa0 wrote

The problem is that the two options here doesn't fully grasp the situation. Let's say you're the leader of a poor country, and a lot of your country doesn't have access to water. You don't have constriction equipment to make the water supply yourself, but you have SOME money. A private company comes and offers to supply the water to everyone, but they're going to charge for it to cover their cost and make some money. Now everyone has water but it's a private commodity. To complicate things "clean" drinking water, like we have in the rich world. Is really hard and expensive to make.

You also suffer from a "tragedy of the commons" if you just make water free for everyone all the time. At some point you have to charge for it, or I could just use it for all the stupid stuff I want, or a big company could use it to turn a generator then send it back so it's much more expensive. The advantage to privatizing it is that a company will control the price so that they can make improvements and upgrades to the system, a public system will need money from outside the supply to maintain itself.

I've made the case for the private commodity here, there are MANY problems with it.


Ok_Construction_1638 t1_j6p2b0n wrote

Most places it's a public utility, with some cities having theirs run by a private company. There's a few countries like England where we decided it was a good idea to privatise the whole lot and now we've got sewage pumping into the ocean and the reason why it's run that way is so that private companies can profit from it and not bother investing in any improvements


phiwong t1_j6p2mbr wrote

Water systems even if owned privately for profit are a regulated monopoly and behaves as a public utility (through regulation).

Certain systems are natural monopolies since it would be infeasible for multiple providers to set up and run the system. It would simply be too expensive for the consumer.

Capitalism isn't solely about consumer choice. It is related to the use of private capital for the provision of goods and services. There are many instances of cities collecting taxes and setting up municipal owned water systems (which is the complement of capitalism - the use of public capital raised through taxes).

Neither public nor private funding guarantees access, quality of services or low cost of services. So it would be a mistake to conflate one with the other. There is no free lunch - one way or the other someone has to pay for the service. Declaring something a "human right" is rhetorical because it says nothing for how such a "right" is to be provisioned or provided. (I can just as easily claim that everyone being a millionaire is a human right, but that doesn't make it happen without bad consequences)


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