Activists Stop Rhode Island Water Privatization in Major Victory
Water is a basic human right. But when our public water supply is up for lease or sale under private or quasi-public corporations, this public good becomes a commodity that is leased or sold for profit, and everyone pays the price. That’s the threat residents of Rhode Island were facing, where for the past three years, government officials have been quietly moving forward legislation to privatize the state’s water supply. But residents got organized and stopped this legislation in its tracks.
“Our campaign is visionary-oppositionary. Yes, we oppose all these capitalist, exploitative, abusive practices, but we also are working centered on a vision where our land and our water is under the stewardship of the Indigenous way of life.”
– Cristina Cabrera, Water is Life – Land and Water Sovereignty
Providence sells its water to towns and cities across the state, supplying two-thirds of Rhode Island’s drinking water. Providence doesn’t profit from the service—state laws ensure that any extra money that comes into the city goes right back into the water system, providing funds for necessary maintenance and upgrades that benefit everyone.
Privatization can mean rate hikes, seizing land containing water supplies through eminent domain, destruction of the ecosystem, and residents were at risk. In one Rhode Island town, an 81-year-old woman who fell behind on her water bill lost her home of 40 years to foreclosure. Her bill was $496. While the state has taken steps to stop these kinds of foreclosures, in the case of privatization, residents would have had little protection from exorbitant water bills and the threats to their homes that come with it.
But activists in Rhode Island fought back. The Water is Life – Land and Water Sovereignty campaign is made up of Black, Brown and Indigenous activists and allies who are leading statewide efforts to resist the water privatization and put forward a vision for a water system that serves people instead of corporate profits. Together, they drafted a moratorium for Providence City Council to stop all negotiations leading to monetization and privatization, and the mayor’s decision to halt legislation that would have privatized the water is a major victory.
We’re proud to support Rhode Island activists in a campaign built around deep democracy, self-determination and community.