The Compagnie Générale des Eaux (CGE) was created in 1853. In 1889, its first research laboratory was established at 52, rue d’Anjou in Paris, France. Veolia Water’s headquarters are still located at this site.
1918 saw the creation of the SADE (Société Auxiliaire des Distributions d'Eau), specialising in water networks and the delivery of drinking water. In 1953, construction began on a Veolia water treatment facility at Clay Lane, near London; by 2001, it was the world’s largest ultrafiltration plant, supplying water to 750,000 people in the city.
Veolia Water’s humanitarian crisis response team, Waterforce, was created in 1998, prompted by Hurricane Mitch in Nicaragua and the flooding of the Yangtze River in China.
In 2002, Veolia Water expanded its municipal water services in 2002 to major cities such as Indianapolis (USA), Bucharest (Romania), Berlin (Germany) and Shanghai (China). Three years later, Veolia Environnement united its four global divisions (Environmental Services, Energy, Transport and Water) under the Veolia brand. The CGE became Veolia Water.
The UK water supply businesses branded as Veolia Water were sold by Veolia Environnement for £1.2 billion on 28 June 2012 to Rift Acquisitions, an entity established by Morgan Stanley and M&G Investments. Veolia Environnement is using the proceeds of the disposal to reduce its debt, as part of a 5bn-euro debt-reduction programme announced in December 2011 and will retain a 10% stake in the new business Affinity Water for at least five years. Affinity Water began operations on 1 October 2012.
Veolia Water’s activities can be grouped into two main areas: providing clean drinking water, and collecting and treating waste water / sewerage water.
Veolia Water sources water from the environment (surface water deposits, rivers and subterranean aquifers); treats it to ensure it is drinkable; provides safe and clean piping and storage; and distributes it to populations. Veolia Water supplies nearly 95 million people around the world with drinking water.
Veolia Water collects and then treats water in line with national and international regulations. Different treatments are provided depending on the level of pollution. Afterwards, the water re-enters the water cycle. Veolia Water delivers water treatment services to 68 million people around the world and, as of 2009, it managed 3,229 municipal water treatment plants.
In October 2010, Veolia Water was contracted to rebuild a waste water treatment plant in Lille (France) in a project that will ultimately have the capacity to treat waste water from 620,000 inhabitants in the region. The company also secured the management of the Grand Prado treatment facility on the island of Reunion (France).
Veolia Water also provides a number of additional technologies and services.
The company produces water for industrial processes, and offers treatment, heating, cooling and cleaning applications for industry. In August 2010, Veolia Water was awarded the wastewater treatment contract for the Petrobras Papa Terra P63 offshore oil production project, located in the Campos Basin, off the coast of Brazil.
Veolia has built 15% of the world’s desalination capacity. Some estimates suggest that the global water desalination market will double in the period 2010-2016.
Veolia Water offers two main technologies: reverse osmosis and thermal desalination. In reverse osmosis, water is passed through membranes under pressure; the membrane allows water to circulate, but captures the salts. During thermal desalination, water is vaporized in distillation chambers to separate out the salts it contains.
Veolia Water also operates in alternative recycling markets. Water that is clean, but not purified for human consumption, is suitable for irrigation, industrial uses, and the injection and storage of water into underground aquifers after additional treatment.
Veolia Water works to replenish subterranean aquifers, which are being exhausted through over-exploitation in some areas. Replenishment can be achieved with treated water of various kinds: surface water, rainwater and treated waste water.
Veolia Water works on reducing the environmental impact of water use through a number of strategies.Saving water: reducing leaks in the system and managing consumption through systems such as water meters.
Protecting water resources: treating wastewater and preventing pollution, for example by avoiding discharge into aquifers.
Limiting the environmental impact of energy use: optimizing facilities, exploring water as a source of renewable energy. Veolia Water Solutions and Technologies has begun a carbon initiative to analyze the sources of customers' emissions and offer lower-carbon water treatment solutions.
Developing alternative resources: recycling treated water, recharging aquifers, desalinating seawater.
In 2008, Veolia Water established Grameen-Veolia Water Ltd in partnership with the Grameen Bank, aiming to provide clean drinking water to 100,000 people in Bangladesh.
Veolia Water’s subsidiaries include:SADE, which to builds and maintains water mains and water networks for delivering and distributing drinking water, and processing waste water.
Veolia Water Solutions and Technologies provides services to both local authorities and private industry, aiming to help them to reduce their environmental impact. In 2007 a Joint venture between Doshion Limited( A Water Solutions Giant in Gujarat, India) and Veolia Water Solutions and Technologies was signed, thus gave formation to Doshion Veolia Water Solutions. This turned out to be a bad venture which did not bring any benefits to Veolia's investors and the company's services.
Two engineering advisory agencies: Seureca (international) and Setude (France-focused). These agencies specialize in water management, water treatment and the environment.
Krüger A/S, Denmark (Annual renevue €177,000,000 (2008))
Veolia Water also has joint subsidiaries with other Veolia divisions. With Dalkia, it has Proxiserve. This subsidiary offers a number of home-based or domestic solutions, including heating and water distribution systems. With Veolia Environmental Services, it has SEDE Environnement (management of waste sludge) and SIDEF (Services to Industry for the Treatment of Effluent).
Veolia is the largest water privatization business in the world, and has come under attack by water rights activists for many of its contracts that reveal consistent prioritization of private profit at the expense of the environment and public interest. See the 2011 report by Food & Water Watch for more information. While public facilities are accountable to the public, often creating increased transparency and efficiency, private facilities are not. If a company chooses to abuse its privilege by hiking up price rates or cutting costs in ways that are detrimental to the public, it is much more difficult to fight. Worldwide, consumers report that Veolia consistently charges high rates, provides poor service, and fails to make promised improvements.
As highlighted in a report prepared by Novato Friends of Locally Operated Wastewater as part of their campaign against this company, Veolia has additionally shown a lack of care for public welfare by:Cost-cutting and lack of proper oversight
High staffing turnover and failure to attract experienced staff
"Regional Response" plans slow down emergency responses
Liability assignment provisions skirt full responsibility
Contract fee schedules encourage maintenance deferrals & substandard equipment use while discouraging water conservation effort.
***These examples from the United States are compiled from the 2009 report by Food & Water Watch titled Money Down the Drain: How Private Control of Water Wastes Public Resources, a 2010 Food & Water Watch Factsheet titledA Closer Look: Veolia Environnement, a 2011 report by Food and Water Watch titled Veolia Environnement: A Profile of the World's Largest Water Service Corporation, and a report prepared by Novato Friends of Locally Operated Wastewater titled Veolia and the Environment: A Bad Fit for Novato.
California Burlingame, CA Veolia settled out of court when sued under the Clean Water Act for dumping more than 10 million gallons of wastewater and untreated sewage over a 5 year period into the San Francisco Bay after creating an inadequate improvement project. Richmond, CA Veolia and Richmond settled out of court when sued for dumping more than 17 million gallons of sewage into tributaries after initiating a capital improvement project. Voters approved a $20 million bond to pay for sewer repairs, which Richmond used to privatize its sewers over three years and then sign a 20-year, $70 million contract with Veolia. Taxpayers had to shell out $500,000 annually to compensate for related property damage. In 2008, the plant had 22 spills of more than 2 million gallons of sewage.
Connecticut Bridgeport, CN Mayor convicted on 16 counts including taking kickbacks, bribes and extortion, along with 8 other defendants over a PSG (Vivendi) contract proposal. Danbury, CN In a short-sighted attempt to balance its municipal budget, the city leased its sewers in exchange for a $10 million upfront payment, at $22 million overall expense.
Delaware Wilmington, DE Failures to upgrade and repair, have resulted in years of sewage spills; environmental violations; state fines; horrendously foul odors; sewage overflow outlets which annually send over a billion gallons of contaminated wastewater into area waterways; and contract disputes over a 55% rate hike. Idaho Burley, ID In 2009, after cancelling its wastewater contract with Veolia, the city had to make thousands of dollars in repairs to the treatment plant because of the company's neglect and poor maintenance.
Indiana Indianapolis, IN Veolia has been sued for breaking state contract law, and for overcharging 250,000 residents. Non-union employees have had pension, health care and benefits cut $50 million over the 20-year contract. With the second worst drinking water in the country, a grand jury has subpoenaed four Veolia employees for allegations of falsifying water reports amid accusations by city and county officials that Veolia was skimping on staffing, water testing, maintenance and chemicals. Iowa Tama, IA In 2011, the city sought to end a 20-year contract with Veolia because it believed the city could save money with a public operation. Louisiana New Orleans, LA Consideration of a bid containing uncertainties, inadequacies, and omissions cost the city $5 million. Failure to take action on a known equipment problem resulted in an electrical fire. Raw sewage backed up into the East Bank Sewage Treatment Plant and was diverted into the Mississippi River for two hours. An executive was convicted of bribery in seeking wastewater contract extension and fined $3 million.
Massachusetts Lee, MA Lee rejected a bid that seemed to be a scheme to turn the city's wastewater treatment facilities into a regional waste plant/Veolia profit stream. Lynn, MA The city was forced to end a weak contract that left it liable for expenses due to sewer overflows and flooding as a result of poor design or workmanship of system upgrades and an expired letter of credit. The city lost $22 million. Rockland, MA A forensic audit led to a contract termination amid embezzlement charges involving a sewer department official and a local company executive, charged with embezzling more than US$300,000.
Ohio West Carrollton, OH An explosion at Veolia Environmental Service's plant injured two workers, damaged over a dozen homes within a mile radius from the blast, caused $50 million in damage to the plant itself. (Source: http://www.novatoflow.org/shame.html)
Pennsylvania Meadville, PA The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) fined Veolia ES Solid Waste of Pennsylvania Inc. $160,278 for violations related to vehicle licensing and failing to abide by the terms of its permit and more than $11,200 for residual and municipal waste violations amid complaints a Veolia truck driver draining an estimated 100 gallons of dilute coolant and rust preventative into a storm drain leading to the Driftwood Branch of Sinnemahoning Creek. Cameron and Centre Counties, PA Veolia was also fined by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection for municipal and residual waste violations in Cameron and Centre Counties.
Rhode Island Woonsocket, RI Years of serious sewage spills, violations and fines followed kept the city's plant out of Clean Water Act compliance including seven informal enforcement actions and five formal actions and the plant's manager had to attend a remedial training program, sponsored by the state.
Texas Angleton, TX Failure to maintain adequate staffing levels, submit capital project reports, and charging expenses properly led to a contract termination a lawsuit for breached contract. Houston, TX A federal investigation into the financial transactions of high-profile consultants hired to lobby city officials in unsuccessful bids. After a legal battle with Veolia's competitor, the city expects to save 17%, or $2 million in public operation.