Missoulians To Carlyle Group: ‘It’s Our Water’

Missoulians To Carlyle Group: ‘It’s Our Water’
Councilman Bryan Von Lossberg addresses a rally in favor of a city takeover of Mountain Water Company in Missoula Tuesday, March 17.

March 17, 2015

The city of Missoula’s attempt to seize ownership of its water from its current owner will begin in district court tomorrow. The city is suing The Carlyle Group, a global private firm, for ownership of Mountain Water Company.

Gathered in front of the county courthouse Tuesday afternoon, nearly 70 Missoulians sang, spoke and chanted in support of the city's effort.

City Councilman Jason Wiener was quite clear about where he stood on the issue.

"When a powerful corporate interest wants something, government generally accommodates them. And when they don't, you get frivolous legal filings tossed out from the court one after another. The water underneath this valley belongs in the trust of the people of this valley, it does not exist to be extracted for profit."

Community organizers and a University of Montana environmental studies professor also spoke in support of the city’s lawsuit.

Councilman Bryan von Lossberg, a long-time critic of The Carlyle Group’s ownership, said it’s a mistake to simply boil down the issue to big, out-of-state companies looking to exploit lowly Missoulians for cash. He says there’s nothing wrong with making a profit, but its cheaper in the long run for Missoula to own its water than The Carlyle Group.

"Their cost of capital is higher than ours. And they’re requiring a return for their investors."

Von Lossberg says Missoula’s World War II-era water system desperately needs an upgrade. And Missoulians, who drink the water, or more motivated to make those investments than an outside, for-profit company.

The city has spent nearly $2 million since it sued The Carlyle Group back in April 2014. The trial is expected to last until April 2.