Privatization is not the answer for the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority
Recognizing this progress and applying criteria explained below, a blue-ribbon panel created by Mayor Bill Peduto recommended that PWSA remain a public authority but with a thorough reorganization and crucial change in governance.
We are at a crossroads, as the mayor and city council consider our proposed changes.
While the panel did not receive such a proposal, which reportedly never got to the point of negotiation, we were aware of this option, as well as other options that could put the water system into the hands of a private company.
Privatization is a legitimate option and was considered.
Private companies tend to be more efficient than public agencies providing the same service; the discipline of the market and the competition it brings demand it.
A study by Food & Water Watch, a nonprofit that opposes privatization, compiled water rates of the 500 largest community water systems in the country and found that, on average, privately owned water utility service costs households 59 percent more than public water service.
When the panel conducted an analysis of the options, we decided from the perspective of the public PWSA serves that, after public health and safety, there are four criteria of overarching importance for the future success of the water system: independence from political control, public accountability, public trust, and a governance and management structure to make improvements durable.
The panel’s recommendation is to keep PWSA public, build on the progress that’s been made during the past year, remove operational barriers to continued improvement and change the authority’s governance so that it has a board of directors free of political influence and focused solely on creating a world-class water and sewer utility committed to providing safe drinking water at affordable rates for the citizens of Pittsburgh and surrounding communities.
Now is the time to summon the political will to make these long-overdue changes in the way PWSA is governed and operated.
We believe this is the best course of action for PWSA, its customers and the city, and we urge the mayor and Pittsburgh City Council to pursue this path.