Water privatization conflict in Stockton, CA, USA

Stockton's water wars end with victory for publicly owned water


Stockton, CA is one of many cities across the United States that have faced the threat of water privatization. Mayor Gary Podesto played a heavy role in pushing the contract through city council, however local residents fought back to successfully put water back into the hands of the municipal utility.

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Basic Data
NameWater privatization conflict in Stockton, CA, USA
CountryUnited States of America
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
Type of PopulationSemi-urban
Potential Affected Population250,000-285,000
Start Date01/10/2002
End Date17/07/2007
Company Names or State EnterprisesThames Water from United Kingdom - Part of the OMI-Thames joint venture that won the Stockton water contract
Operations Management International (OMI) from United States of America - Part of the joint venture (OMI-Thames)
Relevant government actorsStockton City Council, State of California, California Environmental Protection Agency (California EPA)
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersPublic Citizen, Concerned Citizens Coalition of Stockton, Sierra Club, League of Women Voters
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)MEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
When did the mobilization beginPREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups MobilizingLocal ejos
Forms of MobilizationCreation of alternative reports/knowledge
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Public campaigns
Referendum other local consultations
Street protest/marches
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Waste overflow, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality
Health ImpactsPotential: Accidents
Socio-economic ImpactsPotential: Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment
Project StatusStopped
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCourt decision (victory for environmental justice)
Project cancelled
Do you consider this as a success?Yes
Why? Explain briefly.Citizens were able to successfully stop the privatization contract through a lawsuit for failure to comply with environmental regulations after attempts to prevent the contract failed.
Sources and Materials

Concerned Citizens Coalition of Stockton v City of Stockton filed April 2005
[click to view]


[1] Water Privatization in Stockton, CA: Backgrounder written by Water for All- U.S. Network to Keep Water as a Public Trust
[click to view]

[2] Price of Privatization: Stockton, CA_ Food and Water Watch
[click to view]

[3] Lessons of Stockton's Water War- Alan Snitow and Deborah Kaufman August 5, 2007
[click to view]

[4] Stockton, CA City Council Reverses Water Privatization
[click to view]

[5] Thirst- film description premiere July 13, 2004
[click to view]

[7] Stockton water deal stirs privatization ire- Associated Press
[click to view]


A Win in the Water War
[click to view]

Other Documents

Stockton rally Source: Food and Water Watch
[click to view]

[6] The Price of Privatization: Stockton, CA Fact Sheet Published by Food and Water Watch
[click to view]

Meta Information
ContributorBernadette Grafton and Paul Mohai, [email protected] and [email protected], University of Michigan School of Natural Resources and Environment
Last update07/05/2015