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Multi-nationals in the water utility service and construction industry

Watch this video as Dr. Glenn Patterson explores multi-national companies in the water utility and construction industry.
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One of the most common ways in which large corporations serve the water industry is by providing engineering and construction services to design and build the infrastructure needed for water systems. Intakes, wells, pipelines, treatment plants, storage tanks, and distribution systems all require sophisticated design and construction services on a temporary basis. These services are typically available from large engineering companies that specialize in this type of work. And it often makes sense for a government agency responsible for water to contract this temporary design and construction work out to such firms. One example of a large company specializing in design and construction is CH2M, which provides these services for both industry and government. This company happens to be headed by a woman, Jacqueline Hinman.
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Examples of other large design and construction companies include Bechtel, Black and Veatch, MWH, AECOM, Arcadis, CDM Smith, HDR, Brown and Caldwell, Haskell, Parsons, and many others. A second way in which large corporations frequently serve the water industry is by contracting with local governments to operate water systems once they are already built. This is probably the most common business model associated with the concept of privatization of water systems.
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Reasons frequently given for the encouragement to privatize operation of water systems include the expectation that private companies will be more efficient, more technologically advanced, and more flexible than government agencies in operating water systems.
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On the other hand, arguments against privatization often mention that these expectations are not always borne out in reality– that private companies might not provide for their employees some of the protections and job security that are often found in government service and that private companies are more beholden to stockholders and less beholden to voters, compared to government agencies. A third way in which large companies may serve the water industry is by taking complete responsibility for the whole water system, including both ownership and operation. This is the most complete form of privatization.
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Most of the large multinational water service corporations mentioned in the previous section combined both the contract operation and the ownership and operation business models in order to fill two business niches. For example, American Water Works Company, also known as American Water– the largest water company in the US– uses this dual business model to deliver treated water to 15 million people in 47 US states and Ontario in Canada. This company, too, is headed by a woman, Susan Story.

Many of the multi-national water companies are built around a combination of contracting with local governments to operate publicly owned water supply utilities, and operating their own company-owned water treatment and distribution systems. Some are engineering service companies that specialize in designing and constructing water conveyance systems, treatment facilities, and distribution systems.

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