Privatization Dilemma: The Hidden Agenda Behind Biden’s Advisory Council on Water Issues

As the 2024 presidential election looms, President Biden’s focus on infrastructure is under the spotlight. With commendable efforts like the passing of a bipartisan infrastructure bill and the promotion of the Clean Energy Plan within the Inflation Reduction Act, there’s a palpable attempt to steer the nation toward progress. However, a report from Biden’s National Infrastructure Advisory Council (NIAC) advocating for the privatization of water systems is raising alarm bells among utility affordability advocates and labor unions.

A Push for Privatization Amidst a Crisis:

The NIAC’s report suggests that revitalizing the nation’s deteriorating water infrastructure requires eliminating hurdles to privatization and exploring non-traditional funding models. This recommendation, however, has been met with staunch opposition from advocacy groups like Food and Water Watch, who warn that such a move would exacerbate the nation’s water crises, leading to exorbitant water bills and opaque, unaccountable services. Their extensive research reveals that private water corporations charge customers nearly 59% higher rates compared to public water systems.

The Advisory Council’s Tangled Web:

Scrutiny of the NIAC reveals an intricate web of private water interests set to reap significant financial gains from water privatization. The Chair of the Advisory Council, Adebayo Ogunlesi, also leads Global Infrastructure Partners, an investment firm with substantial holdings in privatized water infrastructure. The overt conflict of interest, glaringly overlooked in the NIAC report, highlights a troubling scenario where key decision-makers stand to profit immensely from their own recommendations.

Unearthing the Deep Connections:

The concerning ties between the private water industry and the NIAC members go beyond Ogunlesi. Other members, with substantial connections to corporations notorious for their detrimental impact on American drinking water, further raise the stakes. Examples include David Gadis, former Executive Vice President at Veolia North America, and Sadek Wahba, Chairman and Managing Partner at I Squared Capital. Both have histories intertwined with water privatization efforts and the subsequent havoc wreaked on communities.

The Human Cost of Privatization:

The aftermath of such privatization efforts is not just a numbers game. Take the case of Suez’s contract in Camden, New Jersey. Despite being tasked with managing the water and wastewater system, the corporation’s failure to deliver led to legal battles, highlighting the human cost of entrusting essential services to entities driven by profit motives.

An Unlikely Panel:

The current composition of the NIAC, brimming with representatives from industries like oil and gas, presents a paradoxical situation. The very entities contributing to climate change, thereby exacerbating water scarcity, are now positioned as advisers for mitigating the impact of climate change on water resources.

The Call for Transparent and Ethical Decision-Making:

In the quest to ensure water security, the critical need for unbiased, transparent, and ethically sound advice cannot be overstated. The president’s reliance on a council intertwined with private interests undermines the pursuit of water democracy, sustainable management, and equitable access to clean water for all.


The murmurings from the NIAC about water privatization are more than mere policy suggestions; they symbolize a potential slide down a slippery slope of unaffordable water prices, deteriorating water infrastructure, and a disregard for the needs and rights of ordinary Americans. The advisory council, in its current form, poses more of a threat than a solution to the nation’s water crises. The call of the hour is clear: the president must look beyond the corporate-dominated NIAC for counsel on safeguarding the nation’s water resources. Voices of real experts in sustainable water management, frontline communities battling climate change, and Indigenous leaders steadfast in their commitment to community water access must rise above the clamor, guiding the nation toward true water security and justice.