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Remunicipalisation of Water service in Berlin, Germany


The process of privatization of water supply began in 1995. In 1994, as a preparatory step, Berlin Waterworks (Berliner Wasserbetriebe) was transformed from an owner-operated (completely municipal) enterprise into a public-law corporation (a sort of cooperation model) (Water Remunicipalisation Tracker 2014). In 1999, the petition for the privatization of Berlin Waterworks was voted on by the Berlin parliament governed by a coalition of Christian Democrats and Social Democrats. This decision was heavily contested and opposed by the Socialist Party (PDS), the Alliance 90/Greens, and even some Social Democrats and Christian Democrats. Despite ongoing controversy and manifestations against the decision, 49.9 per cent of the shares of Berlin Waterworks were sold to a consortium of the German RWE group (45%), French firm Vivendi (today Veolia, 45%) and German firm Allianz Capital Partners (10%, which later was sold to RWE and Vivendi). In 2006, Attac and several other environmental justice organizations, parties (e.g. Piratenpartei, Alliance 90/The Greens), the council of Catholics in the Berlin Archdiocese, and other associations and activist groups created a network of Berlin Water Table (Berlin Wassertisch) to defend water as a human right. The group started to advocate a referendum with the aim of forcing publication of the hitherto secret purchase contract and thus causing it to be cancelled (Dorothea Haerlin 2012). In February 2011, this referendum was won by the votes of more than 666,000 citizens. As a consequence of the referendum the city of Berlin bought back the shares of RWE (2011) and finally, after ongoing pressure and lobbying by Environmental Justice Organizations, also of Veolia (2013). Now Berlin Waterworks are completely owned by the city of Berlin.

Basic Data
Name of conflict:Remunicipalisation of Water service in Berlin, Germany
State or province:Berlin
Location of conflict:Berlin
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

Annual Turnover: 1,341bn EUR (2011)

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Project area:89,185
Type of populationUrban
Affected Population:3,502,000
Start of the conflict:29/10/1999
Company names or state enterprises:Berlin Waterworks (Berliner Wasserbetriebe) - Purchased and repurchased water supply and drainage utility
RWE from Germany
Veolia North America from United States of America
Allianz Capital Partners - Firm bought share of Berlin Waterworks
Vivendi from France - Firm bought share of Berlin Waterworks
Relevant government actors:Berlin State Government
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Berliner Wassertisch, Attac, Green League, Germany, Piratenpartei, Alliance 90/The Greens, European Water Movement, Berliner Wasserrat (Berlin Water Assembly, founded on 28 November 2013 in Berlin as an instrument of direct democracy)
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityLATENT (no visible organising at the moment)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:International ejos
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Social movements
Trade unions
Local scientists/professionals
Religious groups
Forms of mobilization:Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Referendum other local consultations
Street protest/marches
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Other socio-economic impactsincrease of water prices, decrease of service quality
Project StatusStopped
Conflict outcome / response:Project cancelled
Withdrawal of company/investment
Development of alternatives:Remunicipalisation and participation in urban water management
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Yes
Briefly explain:As a consequence of the won referendum the city of Berlin bought back the shares of RWE (2011) and finally after ongoing pressure and lobbying of environmental justice organizations also of Veolia (2013). Now Berlin Waterworks are public.
Sources & Materials
References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Beveridge, R., & Naumann, M. (2013). Global norms, local contestation: Privatisation and de/politicisation in Berlin.
[click to view]

Ross Beveridge, Frank Hüesker, Matthias Naumann, From post-politics to a politics of possibility? Unravelling the privatization of the Berlin Water Company, Geoforum, Volume 51, January 2014, Pages 66-74
[click to view]

web page of Berlin Water Table
[click to view]

Case of Berlin within web page of water remunicipalisation tracker
[click to view]

alternative web page of Berlin Water Table
[click to view]

Page of Berlin Water Table within web page of European Water Movement
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Fotos of conflict around remunicipalisation of Berlin Water Table
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Gabriel Weber, Fundacio Ent, [email protected]
Last update18/08/2019
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