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 A new study says French water multinationals Veolia and Suez are making ‘astronomical profits’ in France - where they control much of the market - while delivering low-level services.

 The French consumers’ association Union Fédérale des consommateurs (UFC) has released a study showing the huge profit margins many French water corporations enjoy.

The high water mark is in the community of Ile-de-France, where the private operator pockets a 58.7 per cent profit margin on citizens’ water payments, according to UFC. The association found a similar pattern of “explosive” profits in other cities with private water.

In contrast, cities with public ownership and management, including the city of Grenoble, had profit margins in the range of 10 to 15 per cent. In 2000, Grenoble citizens won a long battle to bring water services back into public hands, ending a regime notorious for overpricing and corruption.

The study, a follow-up to a 2006 survey of price structures, found that few water corporations had changed their profiteering ways. Only private operations in Angers and Nantes had dropped their profit margins. UFC calls some of the pricing practices “abusive.”

The association is calling on municipal governments to bring water services back into public hands.