Ecuador Debates Protecting Water for People, Not Profit
Ecuador has recently made big strides to ensure its citizens have access to low-cost, high-quality water. As part of the Water Law now being negotiated in the National Assembly, Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa announced the establishment of a minimum water consumption per person policy from which water prices and subsidies can be determined.
Correa’s declaration is especially important in light of Interagua’s privatization of the water supply in Guayaquil in 2001. Interagua is a subsidiary of the American company Bechtel, the same company that fueled the infamous water war in Cochabamba, Bolivia. After Interagua procured a 30-year contract in Guayaquil, water prices increased by 180 percent. Even though key water systems, such as those in Guayaquil, remain privatized, in 2008, Ecuador rewrote its constitution to include rights for nature and also established the human right to water.
President Correa stated last week that when the minimum water consumption per person is determined, it will constitute a base for water pricing. Correa has asked the National Secretariat of Water (Senagua) to analyze the potential cost to the government of subsidizing water prices.
Across the world, approximately 90 percent of global water systems are publicly owned and operated. But in Guayaquil, Ecuador’s largest city, water privatization has resulted in higher prices and poor water quality, and has also been linked to hepatitis outbreaks. Privatization of systems often leads to price increases, as well as a decrease in quality and accessibility, whereas models such as public-public partnerships provide greater affordability and quality.