With Monterey County Measure Poised to Win, Celebration That 'Public Water Won!'

Residents of of Monterey Country, California, moved closer having public control of their water after apparent passage of a citizen initiative that has the potential to topple decades of private control.

Early numbers show the initiative, Measure J, winning 54.89 percent to 45.11 percent.

“A yes vote” on Measure J, as Ballotpedia explains, “was a vote in favor of directing the [Monterey Peninsula Water Management] district to create a plan for acquiring all assets of the water system from California American Water through negotiation or eminent domain.” California American Water Company (Cal Am) has held private control of the water since 1966, and, according to (pdf) advocacy group Food and Water Watch, it’s the most expensive water provider in the nation.

“Once the vote is certified, the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District will have nine months to complete the feasibility study and come up with a plan for buying the water system from Cal Am,” local public radio KAZU reports. MPWM said Wednesday that assembling the feasibility team would take about four to six weeks, and that the district would start getting public input at hearing during the beginning of December.

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If the final tally shows Measure J successful, it would be despite supporters being massivley outspent. As the Monterey County Weekly reported, Cal Am spent $3 million to defeat the measure compared to Public Water Now’s mere $159,000.

Pointing to the measure in California as well as the overwhelming passage of a measure in Baltimore that bans water privatization, Food and Water Watch organizer campaign director Mary Grant declared, “From coast to coast, public water won on the ballot!”

A 2015 report by the Transnational Institute (TNI) documented cases of communities worldwide remunicipalizing their water services. Lead editor Satoko Kishimoto said the publication “shows that water privatization, which has been promoted so heavily in recent years, is increasingly being rejected by cities worldwide after years of failed promises, poor services, and high prices.”