Privatization of water in Tucuman province, Argentina

Population's resistance led to the privatization reversal of water in Tucuman province. However, Vivendi brought the case to ICSID and Argentina was ordered to pay compensation to the company for loss of profit


Neoliberal policies espoused by the Argentinian federal government spawned the privatization of many publically owned industries in municipalities, causing increased rates and generating the preconditions for social unrest. President Carlos Menem (1989-1999), backed and pushed by the World Bank, approved a series of emergency and state reform acts which provided for the full or partial privatization of state companies, utilities and social services. These laws allowed for the privatization of public services without prior public notification.

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Basic Data
NamePrivatization of water in Tucuman province, Argentina
ProvinceTucuman province
SiteVarious municipalities
Accuracy of LocationMEDIUM regional level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Water Management
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Water access rights and entitlements
Specific CommoditiesWater
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsThe bill was increased over 104% from its original price.
Type of PopulationSemi-urban
Start Date1995
Company Names or State EnterprisesAguas del Aconquija from Argentina
Vivendi from France
Relevant government actorsThe Federal Government of Argentina, The Provincial Governor of Tucuman, The French Government
International and Financial InstitutionsInter-American Development Bank (IADB)
International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) from United States of America
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersADEUCOT, Population of the Province of Tucuman, CEDHA, Fundacion Proteger
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)HIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
When did the mobilization beginIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups MobilizingFarmers
Industrial workers
International ejos
Local ejos
Social movements
Trade unions
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of MobilizationBlockades
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Land occupation
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Boycotts of companies-products
The Tucuman population did not pay for the water to the Vivendi Company (boycott).
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality
Potential: Groundwater pollution or depletion
Health ImpactsPotential: Infectious diseases
OtherHealth consequences due to poor quality of water
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Violations of human rights
OtherLoss of drinking water quality
Project StatusStopped
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCourt decision (failure for environmental justice)
Strengthening of participation
Project cancelled
Development of AlternativesWater treatment to restore water quality

Remunicipalization of water service
Do you consider this as a success?Not Sure
Why? Explain briefly.The privatization has been reversed and the service is managed by a municipal actor.

However, the international arbitration tribunal determined that provincial officials violated rights of Vivendi, its subsidiary and the Treaty between France and Argentina (that protects foreign investors in both countries) and ordered the government of Argentina to pay for the loss of income to the French company.
Sources and Materials

Ciudades sedientas. Agua y ambientes urbanos en America Latina. Antn, Danilo. Ed. Nordan. 1996
[click to view]

Revista Semillas N28: El agua un bien publico patrimonio de los pueblos. Grupo Semillas. 2002
[click to view]

Thomas Coleman, “Who Owns the Water? An Analysis of Water Conflicts in Latin American and Modern Water Law,”

intersections 12, no. 2 (2012): 1-19.
[click to view]

Las canillas abiertas de America Latina II. La Lucha contra la privatizacion del agua y los desafios de una gestion participativa y sustentable de los recursos hidricos. Grosse, Robert; Santos, Carlos; Taks, Javier; Thimmenl, Stefan. Ed. Zonalibro. 2006
[click to view]


Protesta social en defensa del agua en Tucumán, N. Giarracca
[click to view]

As Multinationals Run the Taps, Anger Rises Over Water for Profit, The New York Times, J. Tagliabue, 26/08/2002
[click to view]

La Gaceta - Tucumán perdió el juicio contra Aguas del Aconquija
[click to view]

ICSID: Case Details Compañía de Aguas del Aconquija S.A. and Vivendi Universal S.A. v. Argentine Republic (ICSID Case No. ARB/97/3)
[click to view]

Case summary was prepared in the course of research for S Ripinsky with K Williams, Damages in International Investment Law (BIICL, 2008)
[click to view]

[1] PSIRU - Water privatisation and restructuring in Latin America, 2007
[click to view]

Other Documents

Offices of Compañía Aguas del Aconquija (CAA) Source:
[click to view]

Other CommentsHome Countries of the Companies: Aguas del Aconquija is from Argentina, and Vivendi is from France
Meta Information
ContributorDaniela Del Bene (ICTA - UAB)
Last update17/04/2018
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