Water Watch committees are the first line of defence against the privatization of water. Made up of CUPE members and community and environmental activists, Water Watch committees fight to keep water safe, clean and public owned and controlled.
The priorities of each committee will vary, depending on local conditions and the nature of the local threat. In some communities, there is an immediate risk of privatization. In others, water exports are the threat. In all communities, there is a need to protect water quality, defend public control of our water resources and assure adequate funding for water and wastewater treatment. Across the country, Water Watch committees will track:
- Privatization bids for municipal water services
- Water quality
- Water rates and accessibility
- Funding for water and wastewater infrastructure
- Wastewater treatment
- Water pipeline proposals
- Water withdrawals for export
- Threats to water habitats from development pressures or pollution
CUPE Locals or District Councils can start a Water Watch committee by adopting the resolution which can be found here (Locals [link] or Councils [link]) at your next local executive meeting or membership meeting.
Recruit members for the committee from among your local membership, drawing in activists who have time to devote to the committee and sisters and brothers who haven’t been active. If you have an environment committee, you will want someone from that group to participate on the Water Watch committee.
Contact the CUPE National communications branch for materials, advice and support to get your committee rolling.
Next, reach out to others who are concerned about water issues. Your local chapter of the Council of Canadians includes members who are concerned about the threat of water exports. Local environmental activists are concerned about water quality and control of our resources. Other allies you may want to approach include members of anti-poverty groups, women’s groups and local aboriginal groups.
Included in these pages, you’ll find a copy of the Statement of Principles [link] that forms the basis of the Water Watch campaign. This statement serves as a foundation for all the Water Watch committees across the country, setting out the common cause that binds this diverse group of workers, community and environmental activists.
The chair of the Water Watch committee should be someone from the Local with a commitment to oversee the general work of the committee. You may want to have a community co-chair for the committee.
Again, the action plans of Water Watch committees will vary from one community to another. In some, they will be fighting immediate threats. In others, they’ll serve as an early warning system.
The first thing to do is find out if your municipal council is considering the privatization of water or wastewater services. Talk to councillors and senior staff. Review minutes of council and committee meetings. Keep track of visits by consultants and corporate executives who may be promoting privatization bids.
If there are no clear signs or rumours that council is considering a privatization bid, the Water Watch committee should begin a proactive campaign to protect public control of water services.
Make a presentation to municipal council on the dangers of privatization. Ask council to pass a motion supporting public ownership and operation of water and wastewater services. A sample motion can be found here[link].
If your municipality is looking at privatizing water services, then your campaign and the work of your committee will take on a different nature. An immediate plan of action is in order. You will want to reach out to community allies and put pressure on municipal councillors, exposing the risks of privatization while promoting the alternatives.
It’s important to show that municipalities are under increasing financial pressures as a result of downloading of services and cuts in funding from the federal and provincial governments. An important element of the committee’s work is to build pressure on the federal and provincial governments to provide adequate funding to expand and upgrade our water and wastewater systems. This may require that you meet with MPs or members of the provincial legislature.
Other activities might include:
- Educating members and the public about the threat of water for profit
- Getting support from Labour Councils and other groups
- Sponsoring a community event on World Water Day on March 22
- Organizing a local “teach-in” on water for profit and water quality
- Identifying corporate polluters and privateers
- Promoting water conservation
- Identifying threats to water quality
- Promoting access to safe water for all local residents
- Protecting natural water habitats
- Calling for a national consultation to shape water policy
- Linking to other Water Watch committees at the regional and national level
Water Watch committees will be active locally, provincially and nationally, holding governments at all levels to account for protecting public control of water services and resources.
Municipal governments will be targeted to protect public ownership and operation of municipal water supplies. As part of this effort, we will work with municipal governments for increased funding from federal and provincial governments to upgrade and expand water and wastewater facilities.
Provincial governments will be lobbied to provide adequate funding for water services and waste water treatment and strengthen environmental regulation and enforcement.
The federal government will be pressured to provide a significant increase in funding for the expansion and upgrading of water and wastewater facilities. The federal government will also be pressured to adopt legislation prohibiting the bulk export of water.
Corporations that exploit water for profit and damage water quality will be targeted.
CUPE members and the public will be encouraged to conserve water and protect water quality while governments will be pressured to protect water quality and the environment.
CUPE National has set up a toll-free Water Watch line – 1-877-CUPE-H2O (1-877-287-3426) for service in English and 1-877-SCFP-EAU (1-877-723-7328) for service in French.
Once you have set up your Water Watch committee, phone the toll-free line and let us know that you are up and running. Or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or fax us the Faxback form [link]. That way, we can keep you informed of the progress of the campaign.
We can also put you in touch with other organizations or activists in your community – and across the country – who are interested in supporting this campaign. We’ll provide regular updates, share winning strategies from other communities and help set up a national emergency response network.
CUPE will support committees with research and communications tools. As well, locals may wish to apply for a cost share campaign, with CUPE National matching your local contribution.