Jan. 25, 2010
10 minutes with Wenonah Hauter
WENONAH HAUTER is the executive director of Food & Water Watch. She graciously answers a few questions from the BC Water News team.
Name: Wenonah Hauter
Title: Executive Director, Food & Water Watch, Washington, D.C.
Background: Hauter has worked extensively on energy, food, water and environmental issues at the national, state and local level. Experienced in developing policy positions and legislative strategies, she is a skilled and accomplished organizer, having lobbied and developed grass-roots field strategy and action plans. From 1997 to 2005, she served as Director of Public Citizen's Energy and Environment Program, which focused on water, food and energy policy. From 1996–97, she was environmental policy director for Citizen Action, where she worked with the organization's 30 state-based groups. From 1989–95 she was at the Union of Concerned Scientists, where as a senior organizer she coordinated broad-based, grass-roots, sustainable energy campaigns in several states. She has an M.S. in Applied Anthropology from the University of Maryland.
Director, Water Environment Services, Clackamas County, Ore.
Director of Public Works, Meridian, Idaho
King County (Wash.) Wastewater Treatment Division
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What should all water industry leaders know about the Food & Water Watch organization?
Wenonah Hauter: Food & Water Watch is a consumer advocacy organization that works to protect our essential natural resources. Through research, public and policymaker education, media, grass-roots organizing and lobbying, we advocate policies that promote public, rather than private control of water resources including oceans, rivers and groundwater. We also promote policies that result in the production of safe and wholesome food produced in a sustainable manner. We are funded through membership, foundations and individual donors, and we do not take corporate or government money.
How would you describe your typical workday as executive director of F&WW?
Hauter: I don’t have a typical workday, because my job is extremely varied, and every day is different. Among my job duties are organizational development, staff management, fundraising, public speaking, and acting as spokesperson for Food & Water Watch. But one of the most interesting parts of my job is working with our field department to develop a strategy for our legislative agenda. This involves creating a grassroots organizing plan that takes into consideration our resources and our ability to impact the vote of a targeted member of Congress.
At the upcoming NACWA conference, you are a panel member for the discussion: Partnership Models and Lessons Learned from Across the Pond. What is the key message you bring to this discussion?
Hauter: Public-public partnerships for water infrastructure are a much better deal for consumers than public-private partnerships. Public-public partnerships provide municipalities with a creative way to achieve economies of scale and reduce water and sewer system costs without having to sacrifice quality or local control. Municipalities can share equipment and access technical expertise through inter-municipal agreements, and they can reduce chemical and equipment costs through purchasing consortiums.
This is in sharp contrast with the high rates, service quality problems and other consumer concerns involved in public-private partnerships. Since Indianapolis contracted with Veolia Water for the management of its water system, consumers have complained of high rates, overcharging and questionable water quality. State regulators and private consultants have criticized the contract and the city’s oversight of it. The U.K experience with private water service has been no better. Water rates have increased dramatically, customers have been overcharged, and some consumers have lost access to water service, endangering public health. Water and sewer service is best left under local, public control.
What’s one thing lawmakers and regulators could do to help your agency and the water industry as a whole?
Hauter: Clean, healthy, affordable water is something every American should be able to rely on. One of the solutions that could help solve our looming clean water infrastructure crisis is a federal Clean Water Trust Fund. We need to pass legislation to establish a dedicated source of public funding that is free from political interference. A national trust fund could address issues equitably, including the needs of rural and impoverished communities. A trust fund would enable the country to reach water quality goals uniformly instead of focusing on one problem at a time. The revenue for a Clean Water Trust Fund should be broad-based, equitable, and secure. It should follow the pattern established by most federal trusts, and come from the industries that profit from, or damage the quality of clean water.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
Hauter: I live on my family’s organic vegetable farm, and I enjoy cooking all of the great produce grown there. I also enjoy hiking, traveling, and reading.