The city of Berlin has some of the highest prices for drinking water in Germany. In the last decade, water prices in Berlin have risen twice as much compared to the German average. People who felt they paid too much suspected that the high prices were related to the fact that Berlin’s drinking water infrastructure was privatized in the late 1990’s. Since then, the two involved companies RWE and Veolia made 1.3 Billion Euros profit!
Part of the problem was that the content of some of the contracts between the city who has a monopoly on supplying drinking water and RWE / Veolia, were not known to anyone other to the two parties. Some groups, like the “Berliner Wassertisch” have been campaigning to make those contracts publicly available. Planetwater.org mentioned in January 2008 Berlin’s water problem. This saturday, the Berlin-based newspaper, “die TAZ”, made those contracts public. Most notably, these contracts contained information on how the two parties had made sure that there could be profits — despite the fact that an open contract allowing profits had earlier been judged to be illegal.
A. Loiser points out in his article: “the Berlin example shows how companies are allowed to make huge, almost deliberately high, profits to the detriment of the citizens” (TAZ, 30./31. Oktober 2010, pages 16-17). It’s not the case that there was not enough water available, nor that the available water was excessively contaminated — both scenarios would lead to increased costs. Neither was the water distribution excessively difficult and expensive.
Most politicians involved with Stuttgart 21 now agree that the public has not been included sufficiently in the decision process for the project. Hence, the arbitration led by Heiner Geisler is broadcast publicly via internet and on TV. It remains to be seen if this leads to more data being publicly available.