Protests against SA water privatisation


By Hendrik Gout ADELAIDE — In two months' time a multinational consortium will take control of the state's water supply. United Water, a French, English and Australian firm, has the contract to deliver water to every house, shop, office, factory and school in Adelaide. No other state government has gambled on giving a private supplier monopoly rights on water delivery. South Australians will pay about $1,500 million for the service — the amount the government will give the group during the 15-year life of the contract. The government will continue to own existing water and sewerage mains, as well as reservoirs, but new filtration plants and other infrastructure may eventually be privately financed, owned and operated. Infrastructure minister, John Olsen, says that United Water will deliver water and sewerage services at four-fifths the cost of SA Water, the existing state-owned supplier. Olsen will continue to set the purchase price of water, but said that it would be unlikely that any savings would be passed on in reduced water rates. The Liberal government is attempting to neutralise public concern about water privatisation with a massive taxpayer-funded public relations campaign orchestrated by a Sydney PR company. Until the Brown government came to office in SA, water was delivered by a government department, E&WS (known as SA Water). Last financial year, SA Water made a $71.5 million profit which could have been put back into government services or debt reduction. When United Water takes over, the profits will be split three ways between shareholders in the French company General des Eaux, the English company Thames Water and the local equity partner, Kinhill Engineering. [Reprinted from Public Sector Review.]