From Pragmatic to Polarized?

From pragmatic to politicized? The future of water remunicipalization in the United States

By: Thomas M. Hanna, David A. McDonald

The United States has experienced swings of public and private operation of its water services for more than 150 years. This paper examines the most recent swing, that of remunicipalization. The authors argue that much of this remunicipalization is taking place for ‘pragmatic’ reasons related to cost savings and service quality, but there are also signs of more ‘politicized’ forms of water remunicipalization taking place, similar to efforts elsewhere in the world where the process has often involved heated ideological debates and mass mobilizations. Combined with a growing politicization of other social, economic, and environmental issues in the US, water remunicipalization could become more politicized in the future, but a fragmented ‘pro-public’ movement, combined with ongoing efforts to outsource water services and growing resistance to remunicipalization from private water companies, may constrain this potential.

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