The Right to Clean Water – Now in the Constitution

The SPÖ is pushing to protect one of Austria’s greatest natural resources in the Constitution, after Ibiza-gate fueled worries of a sell-out to private investors.

+++ UPDATE +++

On July 2, the Austrian Parliament passed a law enshrining the protection of drinking water resources in the Austrian constitution. Water privatization in Austria is thus henceforth unconstitutional.

+++ ORIGINAL STORY +++

Freedom Party politician Heinz-Christian Strache’s night in Ibiza unsettled Austrians of the Left and Right when they heard him on video promising a supposed Russian oligarch that he would privatize Austrian water, offering the business as a marketable commodity.  Austrians take the (cost-free) clear, running water in their taps for granted, considering it both a fundamental right and a part of their national identity.  So any threat to it is understandably a cause for uproar.

It is in this context that SPÖ chief Pamela Rendi-Wagner has taken on the protection of the water supply as a right to be enshrined in constitutional law: “Let us work together to ensure that our water does not fall into the hands of speculators and corporations, but is available to all Austrians, and that its top quality remains,” she told Der Standard.

Water Gone International

After the question of natural rights, comes the question of the economics of the water supply. The problem is not whether people will pay for water – what choice do they have – but whether there is any benefit to making them do so. A look at the results of privatization elsewhere is instructional. Scandinavian countries have a long history of inclusion, which is applicable to water too – and it is no secret Norway has been a role-model of offering one of the highest living-standards with the happiest citizens, according to the Evolution Institute.

On the other hand, a year-long study by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists found that most World Bank loans for water infrastructure in the last five years have required the conversion of public systems to private as a condition for the loans. The performance of these companies in both Europe and the developing world has been well documented: huge profits, higher prices for water, cut-offs to customers who cannot pay, little transparency, reduced water quality, bribery, and corruption. Privatizing water does not irrevocably lead to a disaster for the country, but it is by far the most frequent outcome.

As for Strache, who caused this national hue and cry by saying on film that the country needs a model of a monetized water supply – “where the state has an income and whoever operates [the business] also has an income” – now says that “drinking water privatization was never discussed” in Ibiza and that he has been always in favor of free water for all Austrians.

 

Fausia Abdoel
Fausia Abdoel lives in Vienna and is a marketing manager, writer and translator who holds several degrees and has worked for companies and organizations such as Fairfood International and the Egyptian Tourism Authority. She speaks and writes in six different languages and is currently working on a book.

Help us help you

“Strong media and independent journalism are built on the shoulders of subscribers. Your support means the world to us.

Benjamin Wolf
COO & Managing Editor

The coronavirus outbreak affects and challenges your life in big and small ways. Metropole is here for you and we are proud to be your news source during this crisis.

But just as the coronavirus has increased the need for independent journalism, it has also undercut a major revenue source of media companies, ours included – advertising.

We need your support to keep it up – donate or subscribe and #helpushelpyou!

Support Metropole!


 

RECENT Articles

The Coronavirus in Austria & Vienna | Europe’s First Lung Transplant for a ...

The coronavirus has arrived in Austria. Here’s all you need to know about current measures, including available resources, trusted sources and tips – regularly updated.

7 Restaurants to Have Iftar This Ramadan

Today marks the beginning of Eid al-Fitr or Festival of Breaking the Fast, concluding a month of fasting for Muslims keeping the Ramadan. We’ve compiled a list of sweet spots in the city for you to celebrate the Sugar Feast.

After Ibiza | Older, But None the Wiser

A year ago the infamous video was released: it showed the then Vice-Chancellor H-C Strache promising lucrative state contracts for other favors. What was at first a political embarrassment has now sparked a broader corruption investigation.

Reopening the Borders | What Our Neighbors Are Doing

Austria, Czechia, Slovakia and Hungary plan a coordinated opening in mid-June.

Top 5 Viennese Musicians in Quarantine

Many performers have taken to the internet where they teach, play and release fresh content, keeping our spirits alive during the crisis. Here are some of Metropole’s favorites!

Carnuntum | Romans, Archaeology and the Coronavirus

It was the stronghold that secured the north-eastern corner of the Roman Empire, thereby also securing trade-routes and access to the Danube for defense from foreign invaders.
 

METROPOLE NEWSLETTER

Join over 5,000 Metropolitans, who already get monthly news updates and event invitations.