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Defeat of Measure O Will Undermine Monterey Peninsula’s Right to Water
Oakland, Calif.– Residents and businesses in the Monterey Peninsula were dealt a blow on June 3 when voters rejected “Measure O,” an initiative that would have set the community on track to gain public control of its water system from California American Water. While the California branch of the nation’s largest private water corporation will call this outcome a victory, Monterey’s families and businesses are the ones who will suffer as a result of keeping the community’s water system in private hands.
Statement of Food & Water Watch Organizer Tia Lebherz:
“California American Water, the sole contributor to the opposition, poured over $2.4 million into defeating the measure, more than 24 times the amount proponents were able to contribute. Despite this vast resource disparity, preliminary results show that 44 percent of voters supported the measure — a testament to the great organizing of the group Public Water Now.
“The company used its well-greased campaign resources to corral area politicians against the measure and spam household mailboxes and television sets with ads to stoke fears about community’s water supply. With voter turnout remarkably low, California American Water’s fear mongering and excessive campaign spending apparently paid dividends. The sad irony is that the company spent more than $2.4 million to convince voters that they cannot afford a $500,000 study project to see if public ownership of the water system would save money.
“With the rejection of “Measure O,” Monterey Peninsula households and businesses will not find out how much public control could have reduced their water bills. Food & Water Watch analysis shows that investor owned utilities typically charge 33 percent more for water service than local government utilities. In 2011, a typical household in Felton, Calif., which in 2008, purchased its system from Cal-Am, paid about $94 a month for its water, compared to the $135 a month Cal-Am had sought to charge for the same amount of water. Public control in Felton has saved the typical household about $500 a year, a benefit that will now elude Monterey.
“It unconscionable that yet another wealthy corporation more beholden to shareholders than the people has hampered the interests of Monterey, but we will continue to stand by the community in its fight to control its own water system.”
Food & Water Watch works to ensure the food, water and fish we consume is safe, accessible and sustainable. So we can all enjoy and trust in what we eat and drink, we help people take charge of where their food comes from, keep clean, affordable, public tap water flowing freely to our homes, protect the environmental quality of oceans, force government to do its job protecting citizens, and educate about the importance of keeping shared resources under public control.