Berlin ends disastrous water system P3

Negotiations to end the largest municipal P3 in Germany were finally concluded on September 10 with a deal by the Berlin government to spend €650 million (C$893 million) to buy back shares of the Berlin Water Company that have been in the hands of water giant Veolia since a P3 deal was signed in 1999.

A press release (translated from German) from the Berlin Water Table celebrated the end of the P3 by saying, “With the repurchase of shares of the Veolia Water Company, the Senate ended a nearly 14 year old partial privatization. This has left the people of Berlin, the highest water rates in the major German cities as well as a mountain of problems. The Berlin Water Table welcomes the municipal ownership.” The group was critical of the 54 million euro “golden handshake” that Veolia received from the city as part of the deal.

In 2012, Berlin paid a similar amount, roughly C$854 million to buy back shares from another private partner, RWE.

Following a successful petition drive, in February of 2011, over 665,000 Berlin citizens voted in favour of opening the contract to public scrutiny to disclose the full details of the P3. Details of the contract showed many problems, and a federal watchdog forced a cut in water rates of 18%, saying the P3 had been overcharging customers for years.

In the first 10 years of their operations, RWE and Veolia reportedly made €1.3 billion (US$1.64 billion) off of the Berlin Water Works.