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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
Name of conflict:Privatization of water in Tucuman province, Argentina
State or province:Tucuman province
Location of conflict:Various 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 commodities:Water
Project Details and Actors
Project details

The bill was increased over 104% from its original price.

Type of populationSemi-urban
Start of the conflict:1995
Company names or state enterprises:Aguas del Aconquija from Argentina
Vivendi from France
Relevant government actors:The Federal Government of Argentina, The Provincial Governor of Tucuman, The French Government
International and Finance InstitutionsInter-American Development Bank (IADB)
International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) from United States of America
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:ADEUCOT, Population of the Province of Tucuman, CEDHA, Fundacion Proteger
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Industrial workers
International ejos
Local ejos
Social movements
Trade unions
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of mobilization:Blockades
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
Other Health impactsHealth consequences due to poor quality of water
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Violations of human rights
Other socio-economic impactsLoss of drinking water quality
Project StatusStopped
Conflict outcome / response:Court decision (failure for environmental justice)
Strengthening of participation
Project cancelled
Proposal and development of alternatives:Water treatment to restore water quality
Remunicipalization of water service
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain: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 & Materials
References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

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

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

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

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

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]

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

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

Other comments:Home Countries of the Companies: Aguas del Aconquija is from Argentina, and Vivendi is from France
Meta information
Contributor:Daniela Del Bene (ICTA - UAB)
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:440
Related conflicts
Legal notice / Aviso legal
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