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Public water activists around the world are toasting the end of privatized water in Paris.

As of January 1, 2010 a single public operator, Eau de Paris, manages and operates the city’s drinking water from production to distribution. The move ends a quarter century of private control.

The city took back control on new year’s day, delivering on a promise Paris mayor Bertrand Delanoë made while campaigning for re-election in 2007.

After voters returned him to office in March 2008, Delanoë made it official: the city would not renew privatization deals with two of the world’s largest water multinationals. City council sealed the deal in November of the same year.

The city’s water operations were privatized in 1985, by then-mayor Jacques Chirac. The 25-year untendered contract was divided between branches of Suez and Veolia. The multinational corporations are two of the most powerful French water corporations, with empires they have built since the 19th century.

The problems with water privatization are crystal-clear in a country where three corporations control water for as much as 80 per cent of the population.  A recent study found the multinationals were reaping ‘astronomical profits’.

wave of local activism has ended privatization in more than 40 French communities. Other municipalities are renegotiating their contracts to cap outrageous profits.

Lowering fees was listed as a top priority when the city’s public water operator, Eau de Paris, came into being.  Eau de Paris head Anne Le Strat says the remunicipalization is on solid economic footing and will mean savings for the city – the cancelled privatization scheme built in 15 to 20 per cent profit.

France’s local water “renaissance” has global significance. In 2012, the corporate-dominated World Water Forum will be held in Marseilles. As with every forum since 2001, activists are mobilizing to oppose the forum’s pro-privatization agenda and promote public alternatives.

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