Case Study 2

Felton, California



This case study uses the small mountain town of Felton, California to examine water privatization. From the nineteenth century, its water system was privately owned until 2001, when it was acquired by American Water and then the German multinational RWE (Geis). Because of the massive rate hike and decline in costumer service, “Felton resident Jim Graham joined with some of his neighbors to found Felton Friends of Locally Owned Water (FLOW)”, which ultimately resulted in, “California-American agreed to a settlement right before the jury trial, and the transition to public ownership was completed in September 2008” (Geis). This town provides an excellent example of the undesirable results from water privatization and how public water supplies render more positive result.

(Massive Numbers Mark the Close of This round of Engagement on the Proposed Water Sustainability Act).

Conclusions from this Case 

From the piece, Public Versus Private: Does It Matter for Water Conservation? Insights from California, it delves into the conclusions one can gain about water privatization from the research of Felton, California. Furthermore, this study is exceptionally valuable as it is seen as representative of many recent privatizations, which means much can be learned from this town’s experiences.

Many negative deductions about privatization can be observed from this study. For one, this case, “… suggests that privatizations and their associated reforms can reduce conservation potential by exhausting the willingness of users to cooperate” (Kallis 189). Thus, if a water privatization company implements unfavorable policies and find themselves in a crisis situation, citizens will generally be unwilling to cooperate with the company to mitigate the issue. Even more, “Higher water prices and attendant controversy have accompanied many recent privatizations…” (Kallis 189). This case study demonstrates how water privatization hinders and complicates water sustainability and cooperation.

Furthermore, this case demonstrates that water privatization is not final, and that a fight is possible. Yes! Magazine describes the fight as a “grassroots effort” (Lohan 1). When this large, private corporation bought Felton’s water utility and immediately raised rates, residents fought a successful campaign for public ownership.  Alan Snitow and Deborah Kaufman, filmmakers who documented these anti-privatization efforts in California wrote, “If we lose control of our water, what do we as citizens really control through our votes, and what does democracy mean?” (Lohan 1), to encourage public participation from citizens. Felton citizens should act as inspiration to all, for their ruthless efforts made it possible to take back the right to water from a private sector, granting access back it to its rightful owner.




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