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NEWS: Chilean water utilities could be fully privatized

The Chilean newspaper Tribuna del Bio Bio reports (in Spanish) that, “Different voices have been raised against the government’s announcement to sell the state percentage of shares (in water utilities)… The United Workers Central, the National Federation of Public Works, and Sustainable Chile indicated that the State cannot undo a public good that belongs to all Chileans. …Network members staged a citizen action to denounce the government’s decision to privatize all water.”

There is concern that Aguas Andinas, Essbio, Esval and Essal will be 100 percent privatized. The Ontario Teachers Pension Plan owns 50.83 percent of the Chilean water utility Essbio and 69.4 percent of Esval. The Chilean groups believe that privatization “will result in serious social problems, the dismissal of workers, and increased water rates.” Business News Americas notes that, “Chile currently has some of the highest water rates in Latin America. Region V utility Esval, for example, charges US$2.25/m3, while Santiago’s Aguas Andinas charges US$1.34/m3. A survey of 23 of Latin America’s major cities found the average tariff to be US$0.03/m3.”

The Tribuna article notes, “The three (organizations) have stated that the profits made by private companies from water are already excessive and that as the companies continue profiting from water in the future, water will be more expensive, and therefore the State can not renounce its participation in the administration of water. The groups said that one way to oppose this is to call a referendum or plebiscite to see if Chileans want more privatization in this field.”

“Sara Larraín of Chile Sustentable highlighted that the United Nations has recognized that water is a human right. She stated that 80 percent of countries, including France and Germany, have public sector water management. Larraín said that privatization has not been beneficial to Chileans and that water and sewage systems have not expanded despite promises of investment from the companies.”

Business News Americas adds that, “President Sebastian Piñera announced in December that state development agency Corfo would sell its minority stake in utilities Aguas Andinas, Essbio, Esval and Essal to fund the reconstruction of infrastructure damaged by the February 2010 earthquake.” Our campaign blog on the impact of that earthquake is at

The Council of Canadians has been calling on the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan to divest from for-profit water utilities in Chile and for the ownership of these private, for-profit water utilities to be fully transferred back to public control. A series of campaign blogs on this issue can be read at

The Business News Americas article is at