Water as a Public Good: Pittsburgh's Our Water Campaign

Feb 08, 2022
  • Description

This case study is part of Demos's new Economic Democracy project, which asks how poor and working-class people, especially in Black and brown communities, can exercise greater control over the economic institutions that shape their lives. This framework has 3 goals:

  1. Break up and regulate new corporate power, including Amazon, Google, and Facebook.
  2. Expand the meaning of public goods and ensure that services are equitably and publicly administered.
  3. Strengthen "co-governance" strategies so that people and public agencies can collectively make decisions about the economy.

This case study showcases all 3 of these priorities. It explores how a local coalition in Pittsburgh, PA, organized both within and outside the government to prevent the privatization of the area's water supply. To better understand this work, we interviewed community organizers of the "Our Water" campaign and employees of the mayor's office and the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority, the agency that oversees the city's water system. We also reviewed news coverage and reports that followed the community as it organized to fight privatization and to participate in decisions about their basic needs.