Accountability and Transparency
Private water companies are committed to being accountable for their actions and transparent in their work with public utilities commissions, regulators and other organizations. It's easy to think that our members sell water as a commodity, but what they actually provide are the services and infrastructure required for safe and reliable water treatment and delivery.
Water is local and private water companies invest in the communities they serve by employing residents, purchasing goods and services from local businesses, contributing to community organizations, and helping to improve the quality of life. Private water companies fuel economic development, too, providing an essential resource to businesses of all shapes and sizes.
Wherever water is regulated our members work with public utilities commissions to establish rates. This is a transparent process open to public participation. Public utilities commissions look at how much is being spent to create, maintain and operate systems, including the quality and reliability of service, before decisions are made on changes to rates in a public forum. In the case of a public-private partnership, the setting of the community's water rates remains the responsibility of the city.
Our members also work closely and openly with a variety of government and advocacy organizations to develop and implement water quality standards with reporting that is available to the public. At the federal level, companies work with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. At the state level, there are a number of state health and environmental agencies to monitor water quality and environmentally responsible business practices.
In October 2011, an American Water Intelligence (AWI) analysis of EPA data on serious violators of the federal Safe Drinking Water Act showed that privately owned and operated water utilities – especially large investor-owned companies – have a much cleaner record than public utilities when it comes to SDWA violations and fines.
The analysis, which included data on water systems with serious violations and least 500 customers over the past three years, showed that only 13 percent of facilities with current, serious SDWA violations are run exclusively by private companies. Only three of the 1,369 serious violators on the list are investor-owned water companies or the subsidiaries of such firms.
That near-perfect track record is in stark contrast to small private systems not owned by investors (such as community water associations or small businesses) and public water companies. Executive Director Michael Deane attributes that near perfect record to several key differences between NAWC members and their counterparts in other sectors.
“Investor-owned water companies often have access to experience and expertise across multiple utility operations within their company,” Deane said, adding that private firms’ knowledge and ability to share information quickly “can make the difference between perfect compliance and an unfortunate violation.”
to read more about the AWI report, and to learn more about our members' accountability and transparency, visit our Knowledge Center