Investing in Human Rights – Volume 1 page – 11

Investing in Human Rights – Volume 1

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ARGENTINA – The Privatization of Water: Unequal access

Table of Contents

Research Team and Acknowledgements

Summary

Preparation of the Case Study

Scoping

Human rights in principle

Research on the Investment

The company

The contract

Adapting the methodology to the case study

Outcomes of the Research

The obligation to provide effective regulation

The obligation to provide access to water without discrimination

The obligation to ensure water is affordable

The obligation to make water available

The obligation to provide safe water

The obligation to provide information on water issues

Conclusions and Recommendations

• Recommendations

– For the government

Credits

 

Research Team and Acknowledgements

 

The Research Team

• Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS)
www.cels.org.ar

• Asociación Civil por la Igualdad y la Justicia (ACIJ)
www.acij.org.ar

 

Special thanks

For their suggestions and contributions to the project:

Daniel Taillant (Director of the Center for Human Rights and Environment)

Andrea López (Researcher at the University of Buenos Aires)

Natalia Aruguete (Journalist at Página/12 newspaper)

Carolina Fairstein (Lawyer with CELS and specialist in right to water issues)

For their collaboration and support during the preparation and execution of this project:

Members of the Program for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights at CELS

The Research Group on Public Services at ACIJ

For his voluntary work during the project:

Fernando Thourte (intern)

 

Summary

Tibet

In 1993, the government of Argentina created what was then the largest privatized water concession in the world when it awarded a contract to Aguas Argentinas S.A., a consortium of European and Argentine companies, to operate the water and sewage systems in Buenos Aires and surrounding municipalities. More than seven million people lived in the concession area at the time of privatization. The population has since grown to more than twelve million.

Asociación Civil por la Igualdad y la Justicia and Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales, two Argentine non-governmental organizations that work to promote and protect human rights, decided to investigate whether this new public-private partnership respected the human rights of the people of Buenos Aires.1 They selected Aguas Argentinas because of the importance of water to human existence, the size of the investment, and the fact that it was being used as a model for other water privatizations around the world.

This case study is the only one in the project that focuses on one specific human right. It draws on the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights2 and an interpretative statement on the human right to water, referred to as General Comment 15.3 The General Comment provides a useful framework for monitoring state compliance with obligations to respect, protect and fulfill the human right to water. It asserts that access to water should be sufficient, safe, acceptable, accessible and affordable.

The research team studied the performance of both Aguas Argentinas and the Republic of Argentina over the life of their contract, which was terminated by the Argentine government in early 2006. During the investigation, the two main actors consulted were the company and the regulator, Ente Tripartito de Obras y Servicios Sanitarios.

It is the responsibility of the Republic of Argentina to respect, protect, and fulfill the human rights of the people within its territory and to ensure that third parties, such as Aguas Argentinas, respect human rights. The central finding of this research is that the public-private partnership had a negative impact on the ability of the people of Buenos Aires to enjoy the human right to water.

Aguas Argentinas S.A. was formed by Lyonnaise des Eaux (now Suez) and Compagnie Générale des Eaux (now veolia Water), both of France; Sociedad General de Aguas de Barcelona S.A. of Spain; Anglian Water plc (now AWG plc) of the UK; and Banco de Galicia y Buenos Aires S.A., Sociedad Comercial del Plata S.A., and Meller S.A., all of Argentina.

 

Preparation of the Case Study

 

Scoping

Argentina is the second largest country in South America, and has a population of about 40 million people. In the 20th century, it suffered periods of political instability, including a military coup in 1976, which ended with a return to democracy in 1983.

The new democratic government struggled with a range of challenges and the country was in economic crisis when Carlos Menem, head of the Partido Justicialista, won a national election in 1989.

The Menem government rushed through a new law, Ley de Reforma del Estado,4 which declared a state of economic emergency in the provision of public services. The law authorized the government to privatize or liquidate public utilities and allowed it to do so by decree, without public consultation.

The sweeping privatization program, which would see most of the large, state-owned enterprises sold or given to the private sector to manage, was part of a series of neo-liberal economic reforms. The government sought to attract foreign investors, pegging the value of the Argentine peso to the United States dollar on a one-to-one basis, and negotiating a series of bilateral investment treaties with other countries that would promote and protect foreign investment.5

At the time of the Menem victory, water and sewage services in Buenos Aires and certain surrounding municipalities were the responsibility of a state-owned company, Obras Sanitarias de la Nación. The government decided it would offer these services in the form of a concession to private investors. It set up, by decree, a regulatory framework in 1992 that set out the rights and obligations of the future concessionaire, the regulatory bodies and consumers.6 The state established a two-step bidding procedure.7 In the first step, bidders were assessed on how well they could meet the technical requirements of running the water and sewage concession. In the second step, bidders competed on the basis of their financial proposals, including how much of a tariff discount they would offer consumers once they took over the concession.

In December 1992, through a resolution passed by the Secretariat of Public Works, the government announced that a consortium of European and Argentine companies would be awarded the concession.8 The consortium included Lyonnaise des Eaux (now Suez) and Compagnie Générale des Eaux (now Veolia Water),9 both of France; Sociedad General de Aguas de Barcelona S.A. of Spain; Anglian Water plc (now AWG plc) of the UK; and Banco de Galicia y Buenos Aires S.A., Sociedad Comercial del Plata S.A., and Meller S.A., all of Argentina. They subsequently formed an Argentine company, Aguas Argentinas S.A., to hold and operate the concession. In April 1993, the government and the consortium signed a formal contract giving Aguas Argentinas a 30-year concession to control and manage the water and sewage systems in Buenos Aires and the surrounding area. The private company took over the public service in May 1993.

Up to this point, the public received very little information about what was happening to their water and sewage systems. It would be seven years before a public hearing was held.10

At the start of the concession, more than seven million people lived in the area served by Aguas Argentinas. That number grew to more than nine million when one of the surrounding municipalities, Quilmes, was added in 1995, and is now estimated to be 12 million. When Aguas Argentinas assumed responsibility for water and sewage services in the concession area, 42% of the population was not connected to the sewage network and an estimated 30% was not connected to the water network. Those with no sewage connection used septic tanks and cesspools or dumped waste into the rivers or the ground. The majority of those without a water connection obtained their water from wells. Water and sewage services were not uniform in the concession area. The more affluent neighbourhoods were better served than those of the poor. Thus, it was the most vulnerable groups in the capital and the surrounding area that had the most to gain if the new public-private partnership lived up to its promises.

Human rights in principle

When the concession contract with Aguas Argentinas was signed in 1993, Argentina had already ratified most of the international human rights treaties that are in effect today. Since the 1994 constitutional reform, most of these instruments have gained constitutional status, including the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.11

The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which was created to monitor and interpret this covenant, has determined that water is a human right protected under the covenant. It has also determined that the human right to water is inextricably related to the human right to the highest attainable standard of health, to adequate housing and to adequate food, and that it must be seen in conjunction with other human rights enshrined in the International Bill of Human Rights, foremost amongst them the human right to life and human dignity.12

The committee also said that when the state decides to privatize water provision services, as it did in Buenos Aires, it must still comply with its human rights obligations. Even as one of the parties to the concession agreement, the state must protect equitable access to water as a human right obligation. The state is responsible for the functioning of the concession as a whole, including the regulatory body, the company, and itself. If the body of control created under legislation is not efficient, if it does not respond to recommendations, if it delays the resolution of important issues, or if it does not apply remedial measures to remedy breaches, the state is not complying with its obligations.

It is worth mentioning the UN Norms on the Responsibilities for Business and Other Transnational Corporations with Regard to Human Rights (the Norms).13 These Norms, adopted by the UN Sub-commission on the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights in 2003, set out the obligations of corporations in respecting human rights. They include sections on consumer protection and environmental protection although they remain a work in progress and are not binding on corporations.

When Argentina reformed its constitution in 1994, Article 42 was added to protect consumers. Among the consumer rights referred to in this new article was the right to adequate and truthful information. The article stated that authorities were obliged to control the quality and efficiency of public utilities and to create consumer associations. The article also said that regulations for public utilities would be established by legislation and would involve consumer associations and the relevant provinces.

Argentina is party to a significant number of treaties aimed at protecting the environment. Those worth highlighting include the Convention on Biological Diversity (Rio de Janeiro 1992), the Declaration of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment (Stockholm 1972), and the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development (Rio de Janeiro 1992).14

 

Research on the Investment

 

The company

While Aguas Argentinas was a new company, created to take over the water and sewage concession in Greater Buenos Aires, its main European shareholders all had experience in running such systems, either in their home countries or abroad. Lyonnaise des Eaux, which later became Suez, and Compagnie Générale des Eaux, which later became part of Vivendi Universal and then Veolia Water, both had more than a century of experience in water and sewage systems in France and around the world. Between them, these two companies dominate the global private water industry. Anglian Water, part of the AWG plc, was created in 1989 when Margaret Thatcher, then the British Prime Minister, privatized the UK water industry. The company used its British experience to expand internationally.

It is worth noting that Suez was one of the first companies to join the Global Compact, a set of voluntary guidelines governing corporate social responsibility promoted by Kofi Annan, then the UN Secretary-General, in 2000. The guidelines cover human rights, labour standards, the environment, and the struggle against corruption.15 Two of the major shareholders in Aguas Argentinas, Suez and Sociedad General de Aguas de Barcelona, are parties to this UN initiative.16

The contract

Aguas Argentinas agreed to expand coverage of the sewage system to 95% of the population from 58% and to expand coverage of the water system to 100% from 70% by the end of the 30-year contract. The contract also stipulated that Aguas Argentinas would build sewage treatment plants so that the water in and near the concession area would no longer be contaminated by waste.

The company was to provide a series of five-year plans, or planes quinquenales. Each five-year plan was to be submitted to the government regulator, Ente Tripartito de Obras y Servicios Sanitarios, for approval at least six months before the previous five-year plan expired. As well, the company was to invest US $1.1 billion in the first five years, $731 million in the second, and $963 million in the third.

The company received a loan from the International Financial Corporation, the private sector arm of the World Bank that provides loans, equity, structured finance and risk management products, and advisory services to build the private sector in developing countries. There is no evidence that the lender attached any special conditions on the provision of service to its loans.17 The International Financial Corporation became a minority shareholder in Aguas Argentinas. Workers from the state water company who became employees of Aguas Argentinas also received 10% of its shares.

The contract set standards, modelled on those recommended by the World Health Organization, for water quality, including acceptable levels of chemical and bacterial content. The regulator was responsible for monitoring water quality and for auditing the company’s procedures for quality control.18 Should water quality fall below the stated standards, Aguas Argentinas was to take all necessary steps to correct the situation, including interrupting service, warning users of what precautions to take, and providing other water supplies. The regulator was responsible for informing local authorities and the media.

The concession contract did not require the operator to conduct regular environmental impact assessments of its commercial activity. However, it did enable the regulator to impose penalties if the company’s activities had a negative impact on the environment. There was, however, no clear responsibility for monitoring such impacts. This would later prove to be a problem.

Since it was signed, the contract with Aguas Argentinas was subject to many modifications, all of them approved through decrees and resolutions passed by the government executive, which had the effect of distorting most of the original objectives established for the concession. In this sense, it is worth noting that the mechanism established to modify the contract was drastically reformulated, losing its original properties. As a result, the legal framework was no longer a single, coherent entity. Instead, regulation of the concession was subject to a collection of different, sometimes inconsistent, standards.19 (See Box below)

Evolution of the contract between the Republic of Argentina and Aguas Argentinas

1993 – Original 30-year contract is signed, containing tariff structure and expansion plans.20

1994 – Aguas Argentinas requests an extraordinary review of tariffs. It receives a 13.5% increase in tariffs in July 1994. The infrastructure charge – which was compulsory for all users receiving new or improved connections — is raised by 40%.21

1997 – The contract is renegotiated. Tariffs paid by residential users increase 37%. The infrastructure charge is replaced with another charge.22

1998 – The company asks for another extraordinary review. Tariffs paid by residential users increase 5.31%.23

2001 – A five-year review of tariffs leads to two more increases – 10.4% in 2001 and 4.4% in 2002.24

2002 – The government of Argentina declares a state of economic emergency and devalues the peso.25

2003 – Aguas Argentinas requests arbitration at the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes in Washington, which is part of the World Bank, claiming the terms of the contract have been violated.26

2006 – The government of Argentina cancels the contract with Aguas Argentinas, citing non-compliance by the company.27

As part of its winning bid, Aguas Argentinas pledged to reduce the tariffs paid by users by 26.9%. While this appears to represent a genuine savings to residents of the concession area, it must be viewed against the backdrop of substantial increases in the tariff in the two years before the water and sewage systems were privatized. In 1991, tariffs were increased twice – by 25% in February and by 29% in April. The government cited rising inflation as the reason. In April 1992, an 18% goods-and-services tax was added to water bills. A few months prior to privatization, tariffs were increased a further 8%.28

At the beginning of the concession, an infrastructure charge was levied on new users who required a connection and on existing users who required that their connection be improved.29 There was a separate tariff for actual service. The contract made payment of these tariffs by users compulsory and gave Aguas Argentinas the right to bill users for services provided at whatever tariff level was in effect in each stage of the concession period.

The contract also allowed the corporation to interrupt service if a user had not paid three consecutive bills. The company could continue collecting the fixed charge from consumers, even if water and sewage services had been cut or were not effective (for example, if water pressure was too low).30 A series of mechanisms was introduced to enable the company to collect outstanding amounts. These included phone and written payment claims, extrajudicial action, interruption of the service, and legal action. To resume service, the user had to pay the outstanding debt, plus a fee for interruption and reconnection of the service.

Over the life of the contract, tariffs were raised five times. According to Alexandre Brailowsky, Manager of Sustainable Development for Aguas Argentinas, the tariff increases were made under the regulatory framework and remained among the lowest in Latin America. These claims have been disputed by a users’ commission set up by the government regulator and an economist who analyzed the performance of Aguas Argentinas.31

The government of Argentina set up a regulatory framework in 1992. It detailed how various public services would be sold to the private sector and the rights and obligations of the concession holder, the regulatory bodies, and the users of the service. More detailed regulations specific to the water and sewage systems were contained in the 1992 Water Decree.

In order to examine the impact of water and sewage privatization on human rights it is important to understand the roles and responsibilities of the private investor and the government in providing this essential public service.

The government created a regulator, Ente Tripartito de Obras y Servicios Sanitarios or ETOSS,32 to regulate the concession holder and the service provided. The regulator was to “ensure the quality of the services, the protection of community interests, and the control, inspection, and checking of compliance with valid regulations and with the contract of concession”.33

The board of the regulator consisted of six members representing the government executive, the province of Buenos Aires and the city of Buenos Aires. Members were appointed by the government executive for a term of six years and could be reappointed for another term. The regulator’s managers were selected from the board. There were no formal procedures for their appointment and they could be removed for just cause. The regulator was financed through a 2.67% charge on the service fees collected by the company.

The regulator could impose penalties on Aguas Argentinas for non-compliance with the contract. The criteria used to determine noncompliance and the amount payable for each penalty were fixed in the concession contract. In the course of the concession, the regulator imposed a number of such penalties.34 The concession contract stated that penalties derived from non-compliance that directly affected the rights of users should be returned to users through discounts in their service bills. Penalties derived from delays in the improvement or the expansion of the system were to be returned to the state.

Everyone living in the concession area had a right to water and sewage services. However, in those parts of the concession where the corporation provided services, people could not use alternative water supply or waste services. The corporation was responsible for the construction, operation, and maintenance of facilities to collect and purify water. It was also responsible for sewage treatment, including the treatment of spills, and it had responsibility for the water distribution network and the sewage collection network, including underground rivers, large sewers, water pipes, and pumping stations.

The connection between the water and sanitation networks and individual homes was the responsibility of the user, who was also responsible for the construction and maintenance of sanitary facilities within their home. In connecting to the network, users had to ensure the work did not disturb the functioning of the network, cause contamination, or cause sewage or water to leak. If any of these events occurred, it was up to the user to correct the situation. These obligations were placed on users, regardless of their economic status.

Both the concession contract and the regulatory framework include an annex referring to the rights and obligations of users. There is also a regulation handbook for users, which the contract stipulated would be prepared by the corporation, but which was in the end produced by the regulator, Ente Tripartito de Obras y Servicios Sanitarios.

In 1992, Argentina signed bilateral investment treaties for the promotion and protection of investment with France, Spain and Britain.35 These treaties are meant to increase economic cooperation among states and to protect foreign investors. All of them were in force when Argentina signed the concession contract with Aguas Argentinas. As stated above, Argentine law gives foreign investors the same rights and obligations as national investors.

The government terminated the contract with Aguas Argentinas in March 2006, citing the presence of nitrates in the water supply.36

 

Adapting the methodology to the case study

 

Our investigation looked at both the performance of a private company in its delivery of a public service and at the performance of the state in ensuring that its people had access to one of the most basic requirements of life: water. The research guide provided by Rights & Democracy was considerably modified during the course of this research. Large parts of the guide were dropped, and other parts were expanded with questions we felt were more appropriate to our investigation.

We used as our starting point the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, an international treaty that identifies a number of human rights emanating from and indispensable to an adequate standard of living. We built the framework for our research on the levels of state obligation identified in General Comment 15 on the human right to water, namely that access to water should be sufficient, safe, acceptable, accessible and affordable.

We had a large area to cover – the concession area is home to twelve million people – and six months was not long enough for the community consultation the original methodology had envisaged. In order to obtain more representative conclusions, it was necessary to reformulate questions and develop new ones that would provide statistical and objective information. Those results enabled us to identify the primary types of problems faced by most people in the sample. We completed our information gathering by interviewing people in affected communities. These interviews supplied representative examples of common problems.

Obtaining public information was difficult at times. Many of the public bodies we consulted took a long time to give us the information we requested. Some never replied to our requests. The main actors consulted – the corporation and the regulator – were reticent when answering questions and failed to openly collaborate with the research. Both took many months to arrange meetings and neither completed the questionnaire designed by our team within a reasonable amount of time. The corporation wanted to sign a mutual collaboration agreement that would allow the company to add its comments to the final report. The company also questioned the impartiality and credibility of the organizations conducting the research. Many of the people consulted within the office of the regulator did not want to speak on its behalf, preferring to give only their personal views.

Finally, the cancellation of the Aguas Argentinas contract by the Argentine government in early 2006 introduced a new complication. People we had been communicating with were either replaced or their attention was diverted to new issues.

This research became even more relevant after the government replaced Aguas Argentinas with a state-owned body, Agua y Saneamientos Argentinos Sociedad Anónima, in which the state holds 90% of the shares (the corporation’s workers hold the remaining 10%). A new legal framework to regulate water supply has been created. We used the results of this research to promote a regulatory framework that ensures access to water for all, thus respecting this basic human right. We have also won standing as a friend of the court, amicus curiae, in the legal proceedings initiated by Aguas Argentinas against the Republic of Argentina at the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes in Washington, which is part of the World Bank. This research was used to prepare our brief for the proceedings.

 

Outcomes of the Research

 

The research presented in this section is organized according to the levels of state obligation as they are identified in General Comment 15 on the human right to water. In this way we illustrate the impact of the public-private partnership, Aguas Argentinas, on the human rights of the people of Buenos Aires. The quotes following each level of obligation are taken from General Comment 15.

The obligation to provide effective regulation

In order to protect the human right to water, the Argentine government had an obligation to establish an effective regulatory system, which included independent monitoring, genuine public participation, and the imposition of penalties for non-compliance.37 The government did create a regulatory body, Ente Tripartito de Obras y Servicios Sanitarios. However, its members were appointed by the government executive, which affected its independence. The regulator’s independent oversight was further compromised by the fact that it was financed through a 2.67% charge on the service fees collected by the corporation. This meant the regulator had a conflict of interest when it considered requests for fee increases, because a fee increase would also mean more money for the regulator.

A 2003 report by the National Ombudsman, Defensor del Pueblo de la Nación, said that the regulator did not function effectively.38 The report cited “delays in response to requests for reports, lack of response to recommendations, and use of the extension mechanism to delay responses to highly important matters”. The same report added that “the entity has established norms straying too far from its own functions, or has ignored on many occasions the principles of the National Constitution, thus not complying with the defence of the users’ rights”.

The National Auditor General, Auditoría General de la Nación, also expressed reservations about how Aguas Argentinas was regulated. In a letter sent to the Ministry of the Economy in 2004, the auditor general said that the practice of the regulator of using the company’s annual reports to identify breaches (a practice set out in the original concession contract) meant that the regulator was not addressing problems in a timely manner. This was especially worrisome, given that the annual reports indicated that the quality of service had deteriorated over time, according to the auditor general.39

The auditor general also expressed concern about changes to the treatment of information supplied by external auditors. In the beginning, the external auditors were supposed to make recommendations, based on their findings, on how management of the service could be improved. A government resolution later prohibited the external auditors from using the information they gathered to make such recommendations. Instead, they were to restrict themselves to reviewing the mechanisms for information gathering. The result, according to the auditor general, was that the regulator was no longer receiving the independent information it needed to regulate effectively. 40

The penalty regime was modified over time.41 According to the regulator, the modifications led to a decrease in the amount of penalties and weakened the regulator’s control. In some cases, it was cheaper for the company not to comply with the contract provisions and pay the penalty than it was to comply.42 The penalties imposed by the regulator up to July 2003 amounted to 40 million pesos (about US $11.8 million). The majority were for non-compliance with water quality standards or with expansion plans. The corporation paid 42.1% of these fines (about 17 million pesos or about US $5 million).43

When water services are operated or controlled by third parties, States parties must prevent them from compromising equal, affordable, and physical access to sufficient, safe and acceptable water. To prevent such abuses, an effective regulatory system must be established…44

The original contract stipulated that the corporation produce a regulation handbook for users. In the end, the regulator produced the handbook. Emilio Lentini, a manager with the regulator, said the government should have created the regulations. “For the corporation, the best regulations are those that do not exist,” said Mr. Lentini. “Hence, it did not do anything.”

To ensure effective regulation, the state had an obligation to involve the public in both the regulatory process and the formulation and implementation of national water strategies.45 In an analysis of the Buenos Aires water privatization,46 economists Daniel Azpiazu and Karina Forcinito of the Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales (Latin American School of Social Sciences) in Buenos Aires said there was public support for the privatization because the water and sewage systems had deteriorated over a long period of time. However, the government did not consult with civil society groups about the privatization. Clemente Etchegaray, head of the users’ commission at the regulator, agreed. “When the privatization took place, users’ associations had no participation whatsoever.”

The regulator did not set up its users’ commission until 1999. It was the formal venue for civil society participation and it made non-binding recommendations to the regulator on issues concerning users’ rights. The users’ commission, however, did not have direct contact with the corporation. Dr. Alexandre Brailowsky, manager of sustainable development at Aguas Argentinas, said there was no express will on the part of the corporation or the state to exclude civil society from the process. He said the lack of participation was due to a lack of interest on the part of civil society.

Civil society groups tried to participate in subsequent contract renegotiations, but met insurmountable obstacles. For instance, despite a presidential decree establishing that board meetings of regulatory entities shall be open to everyone, Poder Ciudadano, an organization that promotes transparency, reported that exceptional, albeit legal, mechanisms were used to limit the participation of civil society groups in board meetings. These included conducting meetings on an urgent basis. In order to attend a board meeting, civil society groups had to register with the regulator the day before. When board meetings were called on an urgent basis, it was difficult for groups to learn of them in time to meet the registration deadline. In the second half of 2005, one third of board meetings were held on an urgent basis.47

At one point, the government set up a special commission to renegotiate the public service contract, the Comission de Renegociación.48 It was to include representatives of various sectors, including users and consumers. However, after Nestor Kirchner became president in 2003, he replaced the commission with a new body, Unidad de Renegociación y Análisis de Contratos de Servicios Públicos, which limited the participation of users.49 Civil society groups were not the only ones that had trouble participating in decisions about the water and sewage systems. The national ombudsman asked the government for permission to participate in contract renegotiations and was turned down.

Finally, the regulator noted that Aguas Argentinas displayed “constant reticence to comply with ETOSS’ resolutions”. Of the total amount of penalties applied, the corporation paid about 42%. Most of the penalties were imposed for non-compliance with water quality standards or development objectives.50

The obligation to provide access to water without discrimination

In the concession area, there are 700 poor neighbourhoods in which two million people live. The original contract did not contemplate any specific regulations about shared responsibilities between the state and the company in these vulnerable areas. Even though there is no restriction placed on extending water services to families without clear title to their homes, some were nevertheless deprived of access to drinking water for this reason.51 There is an implied violation of human rights in this situation because General Comment 15 states that, “no household should be denied the human right to water on the grounds of their housing or land status”.52

Water and water facilities and services must be accessible to all, including the most vulnerable or marginalized sections of the population . . .53

The General Comment also asserts that the state is obliged to adopt effective measures to realize the human right to water, including “facilitating improved and sustainable access to water, particularly… in rural and deprived urban areas”.54

Over the course of the contract, the water and sewer networks were extended into higher income neighbourhoods primarily and at a faster rate than into poor neighbourhoods. Dr. Américo García, who speaks for a group that represents the interests of users and consumers, Unión de Usuarios y Consumidores, said an analysis indicated a correlation between service and income levels. In some of the richer, northern districts of the concession, coverage reached almost 100%, whereas in the poorer southern districts, it was as low as 10% in some areas. “Evidently this has to do with investment recovery,” he said.

The company said this pattern of expansion was done for technical reasons and not because residents in the areas receiving the new services had higher purchasing power. Speaking in a personal capacity, Mr. Lentini said the company did what was most convenient, rather than what the people needed. In a report published in 2005, the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED-Latin America), an independent, non-profit organization promoting sustainable development, criticized the regulator for being too weak to control the fulfillment of the contract and to address the needs of poor neighbourhoods.55

In 2002, the company, the regulator and some municipalities set up El Programa Barrios Carenciados, a program to help expand water and sewage facilities in lower income areas.56 Under the program, a plan was developed through which residents participated in making the connection between their homes and the water and sewage networks. This plan, called the Modelo Participativo de Gestión, had mixed results (see Box on this page). Under El Programa Barrios Carenciados, another plan was developed called Plan Agua + Trabajo, but it was only implemented in one district, La Matanza.

Problems with access to water

Under the Modelo Participativo de Gestión, residents of the poor neighbourhoods of Hardoy and San Jorge in the municipality of San Fernando were invited to help make connections between their homes and the water and sewage networks. The main characteristic of this program was that the residents supplied the manual labour for the extension of water supply. Aguas Argentinas would supply assistance and training and the regulator would monitor the process. Residents wishing to be connected would have to pay a fixed amount and would be charged service fees once the connections were made. This program was offered only in the poorest neighbourhoods.

Marta, a resident of Hardoy, said the training provided by the company consisted of three meetings with technical staff. Most of the people being trained were women. They were to dig ditches, transport materials and make the pipeline connections. The corporation did not supply medical services in the event that any of the residents were injured on the job. There have been many claims filed since by residents of the Hardoy neighbourhood over a lack of water pressure and poor sewage drainage, caused by improperly installed connections.

A similar situation occurred in the nearby neighbourhood of San Jorge. Susana and Brenda, both residents of San Jorge, said sewers were blocked, pipes were broken and the water coming out of household faucets had an unpleasant smell. Children in the neighbourhood suffered from stomach problems, perhaps caused by contaminated water.

The obligation to ensure water is affordable

Tariffs posed a particular problem to vulnerable groups during the life of the concession contract. Initially, concession tariffs were determined by variables, which included zoning and the state of the construction, and there was no special provision for disadvantaged groups. Shortly after assuming control of the network, Aguas Argentinas asked for and received a series of tariff increases, which put the cost of the service beyond the reach of the poorest users. (See Box on p. 106)

Water, and water facilities and services, must be affordable for all.57

Because an important part of the population could not pay the different charges related to access to water supplies, a special tariff for low-income users was introduced in 2001 by mutual agreement between the company and the regulator. The Programa de Tarifa Social had many problems with its application.58 An analysis of the special tariff by researchers María Cristina Cravino and Silvina Susana Sánchez noted that there was little information provided about this special tariff or about the compliance of the corporation. The researchers also noted that the tariff did not amount to a universal social policy because groups had to exert pressure in order to qualify.59

The concession contract allowed Aguas Argentinas to cut water service if a user did not pay three consecutive water bills. It also allowed the company to continue charging the fixed premium for connection to the network while services were suspended and to take legal action in cases of non-payment. High tariffs and the ability of the corporation to cut services and sue for payment constitute violations of the human right to water.60

In 2005, 17,372 users had their services cut because of lack of payment.61 Dr. Brailowsky of Aguas Argentinas said the service cuts were necessary in order to preserve public order. It was policy not to cut services for those who could not pay, only for those who would not pay, he said. However, it was up to the regulator, not the corporation, to identify those users who could not pay. The burden of payment fell unevenly on poor households. This can be considered discriminatory in human rights terms because poorer households should not be disproportionately burdened with water expenses. In their analysis of the Buenos Aires water privatization,62 economists Daniel Azpiazu and Karina Forcinito noted that between 1994 and 2001 the profits made by Aguas Argentinas were large compared with those of other companies in Argentina. They said that the company’s profit on net assets was 20.3%, compared with the average profit of 3.5% made by the 200 largest firms in the country.

Looking at companies that were not involved in privatization, the average profit was only 0.5% in the same period. As well, they said that amendments to the contract over time reduced corporate risk. Usually, high profits accompany high risk, but in the case of Aguas Argentinas, the risks were reduced while the profits remained high.

The Seré Neighbourhood case

In 1994, Aguas Argentinas started to extend water supplies to the Seré neighbourhood. Residents were obliged to pay the direct cost of the work. They thought it was unfair that they should be asked to do this work. Some refused to pay to be connected and continued using water from their wells. However, the concession contract gave Aguas Argentinas the right to require that residents connect to their networks and then pay an infrastructure charge and service fees.

Roberto Diaz, president of the Sociedad de Fomento del Bario de Seré (The Seré Neighbhourood Association) said the model was not well suited to the middle-class neighbourhood. Some people who were connected to the water network could not afford to pay their bills and so their service was cut off. As anger mounted, the neighbourhood created a group that went out and stopped corporation workers from cutting water services. Neighbours phoned each other to warn them when work crews were in the area.

The corporation responded by suing those who had not paid their bills, which they were allowed to do under the terms of the concession contract. In the 1997 renegotiation of the Aguas Argentinas contract, the infrastructure charge was replaced with another charge. Mr. Diaz said replacing one charge with another did not address the core problem.

The conflict continued for ten years, during which the residents continued to press their case with authorities and held public demonstrations. “When one has economic troubles, one is left aside and excluded from water,” concluded Mr. Diaz.

The obligation to make water available

One of the most widespread problems in the concession was a lack of water pressure. The national ombudsman estimated that almost 70% of the network suffered at some point from a low pressure. The ombudsman noted that the corporation continued to bill users, even when water pressure was low, and that despite numerous complaints, the company did not solve the problem.63 The corporation said the problem with water pressure was caused by increased water consumption and also because the pipes in some neighbourhoods could not withstand high pressure.64 A company spokesman also said that some users were compensated with either lower tariffs or other supplies. The regulator maintained that pressure problems were mainly due to a lack of investment in the distribution system.65

In 2005, 37,205 complaints were filed related to low water pressure, mostly in the southern area of the concession where many of the poor neighbourhoods are located. The pressure problem was particularly acute in the summer. Community leaders in some of these areas said that on many summer days almost no water came out of household faucets. Water users filed a lawsuit against Aguas Argentinas in 2001, citing low water pressure. It has yet to be resolved.

The regulatory framework gave users the right to submit complaints to the company about service or billing and to resubmit these to the regulator, if the company did not deal with the complaint to the satisfaction of the user. The regulator said it received tens of thousands complaints over the period of the concession, although the volume diminished in later years as service improved. Users could also file complaints with the national ombudsman. Mariana Grosso, a spokesperson for the ombudsman, said the office filed a number of legal suits against the corporation. One case involving a lack of water pressure is underway. Another, involving billing, was decided in favour of the ombudsman.

The water supply for each person must be sufficient and continuous for personal and domestic uses.66

According to the regulator, Aguas Argentinas breached the terms of the contract numerous times in the first five-year phase of its contract. Only 58% of the investment planned for the period in the water and sewage systems was made. Dr. Brailowsky of Aguas Argentinas said the company does not agree with these figures.

Another ongoing problem in the concession was a lack of emergency water supplies. Failure to assign explicit responsibility for emergency supplies, especially in the poorest neighbourhoods, resulted in insufficient quantity of water delivered. As well, water tanks were too small and had to be replenished several times a day. This created hardship for families, especially women, who had to carry the water every day.

Four hundred poor families without access to water

villa 31 is one of the oldest shantytowns in Buenos Aires. It is in the city centre, surrounded by more affluent neighbourhoods. Neither the water nor sewer network has reached it. Yet it was not until the middle of 2005 that the neighbourhood began receiving emergency water supplies from trucks that filled community tanks three times a day.

Jesús, a community leader, said this was not a solution because there was not enough water and distribution was badly orga- nized. As well, the tanks had no covers, leaving them open to the air. Some residents drank directly from the tanks. “Summer was a real headache,” said Jesús. “To obtain water, one had to wait until 4 a.m., when there was some pressure . . . They had to make lines, rise very early and sometimes the amount of water was not enough for all.”

Many residents used cesspools, which were emptied by trucks. But there were too few trucks to do the job, which meant the cesspools often overflowed. Community leaders asked the city housing authority and the regulator to fix the problem. The regulator told them that it had done a needs assessment of the neighbourhood and that work would begin in 2006. This response provoked angry demonstrations.

Aguas Argentinas said that if the residents could not pay for network construction, the city housing authorities would have to pay. However, the housing authority did not have enough money. At the moment, the work is suspended and 400 families do not have water or sewage service.

The obligation to provide safe water

The concession contract identified acceptable levels for bacteria and chemicals in the water supply, based on standards recommended by the World Health Organization. The contract also stated that if tests indicated the water quality was not acceptable, Aguas Argentinas would correct the problem, arrange for other supplies, eliminate the contaminated water, and advise users on what precautions to take. The corporation was obliged to inform the public about quality problems.

In the third year of the contract, it was found that nitrate levels in some water samples were higher than normal. These problems have persisted. Between 4% and 5% of people using water supplied by the corporation risk consuming more nitrates than are considered acceptable.67

In those areas of the concession where the water network had not yet reached, the state was supposed to conduct a bacteriological analysis of well water and to provide emergency supplies where there were no alternative water sources. In many cases, trucks were sent to pour water into community tanks. But often there was not enough water provided, or the community tanks were in poor condition. As well, it was difficult for women and children using improvised containers to get enough water for domestic use.

In none of the cases has a study been done to determine what effect drinking the water would have on people’s health. Only in exceptional cases did the company or the government provide information about water quality problems.

Sanitation has an enormous impact on water quality. Without an effective sanitation system, water safety can be compromised. During the contract period, the sewer system was not as extensive as the water network. The company fell short of its target for sewer coverage. Instead of covering 74% of the population, as the original contract stated, the sewage network reached 63% at the time this report was written.68 Dr. Brailowsky of Aguas Argentinas said the decision to put a priority on water access was a government decision and not a corporate one.

The water required for each personal or domestic use must be safe, therefore free from micro-organisms, chemical substances and radiological hazards that constitute a threat to a person’s health.69

He also said that the biggest technical problem facing the sewer system was that the city had postponed infrastructure renewal for too many years. However, some critics of this approach contend that the company made this argument because it was cheaper to expand water infrastructure than it was to expand sewage infrastructure.

Poor neighbourhoods in particular were affected by the lack of sanitation facilities. In some poor areas, people with no technical expertise made their own connections to the sewer network. The result was often broken or leaking pipes. In April 2006, the Ombudsman of the City of Buenos Aires released a report denouncing the health risk posed by broken or collapsed sewer networks, particularly in poor neighbourhoods in the southern area of the city. The report said waste was entering rainwater networks and rainwater was entering sewer networks, causing the system to collapse. It warned that the resulting water pollution could spark epidemic outbreaks of cholera, hepatitis and other diseases.70

The contract included construction of a wastewater treatment plant at Berazategui. In 2000, the municipality of Berazategui took legal action against Aguas Argentinas to stop water pollution in the Rio de la Plata. The municipality asked that the company remedy the environmental damage and provide compensation. Three years later, the court ordered the corporation to build a sewage treatment plant. It has not been built.

The delay in constructing sewage treatment plants led to increased contamination in the concession area and in the waters nearby. A report by the auditor general noted that: “Aguas Argentinas transports through the sewer network, the waste liquids generated by 5,744,000 inhabitants. Out of this amount, only the waste produced by 696,000 inhabitants is finally treated; i.e. 12% of the total. The rest is presently discharged into the Rio de la Plata at the point of Berazategui, without receiving any adequate treatment to achieve the quality levels set up under the regulatory framework.” A similar situation occurred in the Rio Matanza Riachuelo watershed, where sewage waste was discharged without treatment.71 The original contract stipulated that 74% of waste would be treated by this time.72

Extending the water network at a faster rate than the sewage network caused the water table to rise in parts of the concession. The combination of higher water levels and more wastewater generated by households with access to the water system led to increased pollution of the water aquifers and increased contamination of coastal waters. 73

In order to ensure water will be safe to drink in the future, the state must ensure that the environment is protected today. The concession contract did not require Aguas Argentinas to conduct regular environmental impact assessments of its operations. The corporation never detailed the environmental impact of its activities in a comprehensive manner, which would have meant identifying, mapping, and monitoring areas at risk of flooding, and identifying possible side effects its activities would have on the water system.74

The regulator should have taken action and forced the company to change its approach to environmental damage. It had the power to impose penalties for water contamination. However, there was no clear responsibility for public monitoring and management of environmental impact. Alejo Molinari, quality manager at the regulator, said that the regulator had no control over the company when it came to the environment. The city, the province, and the state had jurisdiction, but the obligations of these overlapping authorities were not clearly defined. When Aguas Argentinas did modify its behaviour because of adverse environmental impacts, it was generally prompted to do so by judicial action.

Neither the state nor the corporation took the measures needed to reduce or prevent contamination of water sources. Mr. Molinari said hospitals on the periphery of the city noticed that most of the diseases they were treating were water-borne. “What does that mean? That a huge amount of resources is spent on public health,” he said.

As well, in none of the cases of contaminated water was there any effort to register and report on the potential effects on people’s health.75 “There are no records, or statistics, and there is not one official in charge of such work,” said Andres Napoli, director of a non-profit organization that promotes sustainable development, Fundación Ambiente y Recursos Naturales. “It is terrible.”

Lomas de Zamora case

On January 28th 2006, a notice published in Clarín newspaper raised great public consternation. Aguas Argentinas inserted a notice in the bills sent to residents of Lomas de Zamora in Greater Buenos Aires,76 that read: “In the face of an increase in water consumption due to high temperatures, well water reserves could start to be used, which can lead to findings of nitrate levels slightly higher than those allowed . . . As a precaution, it is recommended that pregnant women and babies less than six months of age avoid consumption. They will be provided with alternative water in sufficient quantities . . .” In the area affected by the presence of high nitrate levels in the water, there are 160,000 persons who learned, through their service bills, about poor water quality.

Juan Walter, member of the Seré Neighbourhood Association denounced the fact that the company was still charging the same fees, even though the emergency supplies did not show up.77 He also cited many problems with the claim mechanism. “We have to phone the company but the lines are always busy. Once we reach them, they have to check if alternative water supplies are available in our area. The alternative supplies are insufficient.”

The case of Lomas de Zamora raised diverse reactions from governmental bodies and users’ organizations. However, when information was requested from the regulator and the company about the effect on public health of high nitrate levels, and the measures being taken to solve this problem, it was clear there were no policies to remedy this situation.

The obligation to provide information on water issues

Most of the people consulted for the purposes of this report said that there had been hardly any dissemination of information relating to the negotiation process that concluded in granting the concession to Aguas Argentinas. Dr. García of the Unión de Usuarios y Consumidores said that while information on the privatization process was public, it was only relevant to people who understood the privatization process.

The concession contract, the regulatory framework, and the users’ handbook on regulation did not compel the parties to the contract to publish information about negotiations or modifications to the tariff structure. In fact, the users’ handbook said that tariff changes would be released ten days after they were approved, limiting any public input into the process. Even the national ombudsman had trouble getting information on changes to the contract. It took three years for the ombudsman to get access to some of these changes, despite repeated requests. A public hearing was finally held in 2000, seven years after the contract had been awarded, to discuss changes to the plan for extending and improving the water and sewage networks.

The company defended its information procedures, saying that they complied with state requirements. Dr. Brailowsky of Aguas Argentinas said financial results were made available on the company’s website. They were also distributed to creditors and to people and institutions that requested the information.

On matters of water and sewage service, Aguas Argentinas had a contractual obligation to “inform users on the level of current service quality, on appropriate levels and on the programs in place to reach them”. However, the amount of information provided by the corporation was insufficient to comply with this obligation.

Accessibility includes the right to seek, receive and impart information concerning water issues.78

 

Conclusions and Recommendations

 

Our research found that the public-private partnership established to provide water and sanitation services to Buenos Aires and surrounding municipalities failed to comply with a number of obligations set out in General Comment 15 on the human right to water. An effective regulatory system, which included independent monitoring, genuine public participation, and the imposition of penalties for non-compliance, was not established. Access to water was not provided without discrimination. For some groups in the concession area, water was not affordable. There were problems with water supply. It was neither sufficient nor continuous for everyone. Water was not uniformly safe, meaning free of microorganisms, chemical substances, and radiological hazards which constitute a threat to a person’s health. Finally, not enough information was provided to the public on water issues. In having a negative impact on the ability of the people of Buenos Aires to enjoy their human right to water, the public-private partnership did not respect and protect their human right to an adequate standard of living.

Recommendations

– For the government

The existing regulatory framework should be revised to reflect human rights standards and obligations. All members of society should be guaranteed access to clean water and sanitation services, without discrimination. Priority should be given to the most vulnerable people who were excluded by the concession contract and who were not in a position to obtain access to clean water by other means. Direct and indirect charges associated with the water and sewer services must be affordable and should not compromise or endanger the exercise of other fundamental rights. Services should not be cut when someone is unable to pay and has no adequate alternative source of water.

The presence of nitrates in the water is not a new problem and it is not the only problem affecting water quality and threatening the health of the population. There should be a guaranteed standard for water quality. The government should develop policies to prevent, treat, and control water-borne diseases. There should also be a system to register cases of water-borne disease. Without such a register, it is impossible to develop a national policy.

The government must undertake the necessary work on infrastructure to prevent contamination of water sources and the environment. Contaminated water has caused severe health problems in the concession area. In communities where clean water is not available, the government must guarantee regular delivery of emergency water supplies.

Congress must debate the new regulatory framework for public services. The original contract signed with the Aguas Argentina and its subsequent modifications were decided by decree, without the required participation of Congress. Civil society must also participate in both the definition of the new regulatory framework and its application. Holding secret negotiations to decide a course and then bringing civil society in once the decision has been made, as is currently planned, does not meet the minimum standards of transparency and participation.

The government must guarantee access to information on all aspects of the design and implementation of water and sanitation services. Users have not been informed about how the service will be provided and controlled. It is crucial that the plans for the improvement, expansion, and maintenance of water and sewer services be drawn up and executed in a transparent, participatory, and public manner. This means that the procurement process should also be transparent.

Finally, the regulator for water and sewage services, which also handles complaints, should be accessible to everyone involved, including users and civil society organizations. At the moment, there are no specific provisions governing how the existing regulator will be improved and what its role will be in the new system.

 

<<< ENDNOTES

1- The working team was composed of Nuria Becú (researcher) and Ezequiel Nino (coordinator) on behalf of the Asociación Civil por la Igualdad y la Justicia (ACIJ); Jimena Garrote (researcher) and Andrea Pochak (coordinator) on behalf of the Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS). In addition, Daniel Azpiazu, Economic Department, Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales in Buenos Aires, served as external advisor.

2- The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights can be found at www.unhchr.ch. Argentina, France, Spain and the United Kingdom have all ratified the covenant.

3- UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ESCR). General Comment No. 15 (2002). www.unhchr.ch.

4- The Law of State Reform (Ley de Reforma del Estado) Law Nº 23.696.

5- Thus, on July 14th 1992, Law Nº 24.100 approves the Treaty signed with the French Republic, on August 15th of the same year, the Treaty signed with the Reign of Spain was approved, and on November 4th the Treaty signed with the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland was also approved.

6- The Regulatory Framework of the Concession was approved by Decree Nº 999/92 (PEN–Spanish acronym for National Executive Order).

7- Office of Public Work and Comminications. SOPyC Resolutions Nº 97/91 and Nº178/91.

8- SOPyC Resolution Nº 155/92.

9- Compagnie Générale des Eaux became Vivendi Universal in 1998 and its water division was renamed Veolia Water in 2003.

10- Tripartite Entity of Public Works and Sanitation Services (ETOSS). Res 42/00.

11- See www.ohchr.org.

12- The International Bill of Human Rights consists of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and its two Optional Protocols.

13- E/CN.4/Sub.2/2003/12/Rev.2

14- See www.ambiente.gov.ar.

15- See www.suez.com/devdurable/english/partenaires/global_compact.php?f=1.

16- See www.agbar.es/eng/c-5_gobierno_corporativo.asp.

17- See www.worldbank.org.

18- ETOSS compelled Aguas Argentinas to hire and pay an external technical auditor. Today the auditor is JVP Consultores. The annual audit plan is prepared and approved at the beginning of each period. It is one of the instruments through which ETOSS can verify the actions and results of the company. The regulator can also collect its own samples and submit them to laboratories that are not used by the company in order to compare and contrast results.

19- At the time of cancellation of the contract the legislation in force was: OSN organic law (Ley orgánica de OSN, Law Nº 13.577) and its amendments, Laws Nº 14.160, 18.503, 20.324, 20.686 and 21.066; concerning application, the Regulatory Framework of the Concession was approved by the Pen’s Decree Nº 999/92; the Bidding Form Terms and Conditions and the bid proposed by the winner consortium to this end; and the Contract of Concession signed by the National State and AASA corporation approved by Pen’s Decree Nº 787/93. The amendments to the contract of concession were articulated through Pen’s Decrees Nº 149/97, 1167/97, 1087/98 and 1369/99 and Resolutions Nº 1103/98, 601/99, 602/99 and 1111/99 of the Secretariat of Natural Resources and Sustainable Development (Secretaría de Recursos Naturales y Desarrollo Sustentable, SRNyDS). Lastly, Law Nº 25.561, passed in 2002, set up modifications to the economic regime of the concession.

20- International Center for the Settlement of Disputes (ICSID). Decision on Jurisdiction. Washington: August 2006. p. 12.

21- Azpiazu, D., Forcinito K. “Historia de un fracaso: la privatización del sistema de agua y saneamiento en el área metropolitana de Buenos Aires”, in Azpiazu, D.; Catenazzi, A. & Forcinito K., Recursos públicos, negocios privados. Agua potable y saneamiento ambiental en el AMBA. Universidad Nacional de General Sarmiento, 2004.

22- Decree Nº 149/97.

23- Secretariat of Natural Resources and Sustainable Development issued Resolution Nº 1.103.

24- Loftus, Alexander J. and David A. McDonald. Of Liquid Dreams: A political ecology of water privatization in Buenos Aires. Environment & Urbanization. Vol. 13, No- 2. October 2001, p. 179-200.

25- Ley de Emergencia Económica, Law Nº 25.561.

26- ICSID. Decision on Jurisdiction. p. 2.

27- Decree Nº303/06.

28- Loftus, Alexander J. and David A. McDonald. Op. cit.

29- In the 1997 contract renegotiation, the infrastructure charge was removed and replaced with the universal service and environmental improvement charge (Cargo Servicio Universal y Mejora Ambiental, SUMA).

30- In those houses subject to the no-measurement regime (Régimen No Medido), when Aguas Argentinas cut service due to lack of payment, the company still charged 50% of the value of the bimonthly basic tariff (Tarifa Básica Bimestral, TBB).

31- In its 2000 report, the users’ commission of the regulator said there were no legal, economic or technical grounds for the increases. Before its contract was cancelled, the company maintained that its tariffs were among the lowest in Latin America. According to its figures, increases in inflation, as measured by the consumer price index, were responsible for the increase in tariffs. It said the consumer price index rose 97% between August 1992 and December 2005. Once that increase is taken into account, the tariffs on basic services were actually 4.3% lower than when the contract began, said the company. Daniel Azpiazu, an economist at Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales (Latin American School of Social Sciences) in Buenos Aires, disputed this claim. He said a proliferation of fixed charges led to a significant increase in the price of these services.

32- Law Nº 23.696.

33- Decree Nº 999/92.

34- ETOSS. Informe sobre el grado de cumplimiento alcanzado por el contrato de concesión de Aguas Argentinas S.A. September 2003.

35- See note 5.

36- Decree Nº303/06.

37- ESCR Committee. General comment No- 15. Op. cit., para 24.

38- Defensor del Pueblo de la Nación. Informe sobre el Servicio de Agua Potable y Cloacas. 2003.

39- Letter from the Auditor General to the Minister of the Economy, 2004.

40- General Audit of the Nation, notarial record AGN Nº 380/02.

41- Res. SRNyDS 601/99.

42- ETOSS. Op. cit.

43- Ibid.

44- ESCR Committee. General Comment No- 15. Para 24.

45- Ibid. Para. 48.

46- D. Azpiazu, D. and K. Forcinito. Op. cit.

47- Observatorio Cívico de los Entes Reguladores de Servicios Públicos. Report. December 2005.

48- Decree Nº 293/02.

49- While representation of these groups was formally contemplated within the framework of the commission, a number of obstacles hindered their effective participation.

50- ETOSS. Op. cit.

51- International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED-LA), La Lucha por Acceder al Agua, para. 27, 2005.

52- ESCR Committee. General Comment N° 15. Para. 16 (C)

53- ECSR Committee. General Comment N° 15. Para 12 (C:iii)

54- Ibid. Paras. 26 and 13.

55- International Institute for Environment and Development. La Lucha por Acceder al Agua. 2005.

56- See www.etoss.org.ar/desarrollo/sitioetoss05/barrioscarenciados.htm

57- ESCR Committee. General Comment N° 15, Para 12 (C:ii)

58- This scheme provides for three measures: the non-interruption and restitution of the service, and the challenge of the debt claim through legal action initiated by the concession holder. For its implementation a participative forum of the social tariff program (Foro de Participación del Programa de Tarifa Social) was established, and it was decided that the beneficiary could ask to participate through a request submitted to the municipality, and through the users’ associations and NGOs that dealt with potential beneficiaries.

59- Cravino, María Cristina and Silvina Susana Sánchez. Programa de Tarifa Social de la Empresa Aguas Argentinas SA. Reflexiones en torno al concepto de tarifa social y su implementación en el Área Metropolitana de Buenos Aires. 2004.

60- ESCR Committee. General Comment N° 15, Para. 44. 61- According to information provided for by Aguas Argentinas S.A.

62- D. Azpiazu, D. and K. Forcinito. Op. cit

63- Defensor del Pueblo de la Nación. Décimo Informe Anual, 2003.

64- Dr. Alexandre Brailowsky, manager of sustainable development at Aguas Argentinas S.A.

65- ETOSS. Op. cit.

66- ESCR Committee. General Comment Nº 15 Para. 12 (A)

67- Quality management of ETOSS. The regulation pertaining to the Argentine food code (Código Alimentario Argentino) establishes that nitrate levels shall not exceed 45 milligrams per litre.

68- ETOSS. Op. cit.

69- ESCR Committee. General Comment Nº 15. Para. 12 (B)

70- Report published in La Nación newspaper on April 25, 2006.

71- ETOSS. Op. cit.

72- Ibid.

73- Loftus, Alexander J. and David A. McDonald. Op. cit.

74- Defensor del Pueblo de la Nación. Décimo Informe Anual, 2003.

75- See notes submitted to ETOSS and Aguas Argentinas by the Asociación Civil por la Igualdad y la Justicia (ACIJ) and the Centro de Estudios Legales (CELS) in 2005.

76- In particular, the districts of Temperley, Turdera, and Llavallol. Notice published in Clarín newspaper on January 28th, 2006.

77- The emergency supplies predicted is a 20 litre can for each user that requests it, it shall be renewed every seven days and it is delivered on weekdays during working hours (not during weekends).

78- ESCR Committee. General Comment No 15. Para 12 (iv).