Forty Percent of U.S. Cities Privatize Their Water Works
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Private workers are used by four out of 10 U.S. cities to treat their sewage and drinking water or perform other water system work, and more are thinking of doing so, according to a recently-released survey.

The 261-city survey found that 40 percent have some private in volvement in water service and an other 14 percent are considering it, while 39 percent use private workers in wastewater service and 11 percent are thinking about it.

There is a wide variety of such contracts, said Mayor James Sills Jr. of Wilmington, Del., co-chairman of the U.S. Conference of Mayors' Urban Water Council, which released the survey.

Sills said contract work includes design and construction, meter reading, and running and maintaining treatment plants.

About 60 percent of the cities with private contracts or thinking about them want to cut costs. The rest want private investment, according to the survey.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that governments will need nearly $350 billion in capital investment to maintain, upgrade, and expand the nation's water and wastewater systems over the next 20 years.

“The burden of raising these funds falls almost entirely on local governments,” because federal money falls far short of $350 billion, said Mayor Patrick McManus of Lynn, Mass., co-chairman of the water council. “Cities must look to private sector options for raising the capital needed to protect public health and the environment.”