Water Is the New Oil
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because this could be the most valuable resource on the planet.
Population growth, agricultural trends, and climate change are putting an increased strain on the global water supply. The United Nations estimates that by the year 2025, 1.8 billion people will be living in regions with absolute water scarcity and two-thirds of the world’s population could be under water-stress conditions. The public sector in the developing world cannot singlehandedly fund the projects needed to address this future demand. But to date, private investors have been skittish about committing without having a sense of what their costs and potential returns would look like.
Now, a new initiative from IBM and the aptly named startup Waterfund could change that. The Rickards Real Cost Water Index (WCI) will benchmark costs for the development and maintenance of large-scale water treatment and delivery networks throughout the world, shedding some light on what pricing in a competitive market might look like. But is this a good thing?
There ain’t no water balloons in this fight. The Anuak people in Ethiopia last year were shocked to learn they could no longer use the Alwero River, their fish source, thanks to a land deal by a Saudi development firm. The ethnic group, which has lived near the river for generations, was forced to yield to foreign interests. We’ve all heard of land grabbing, the large-scale land purchases by foreign firms and governments in the developing world. Less obvious, however, are the hidden water grabs involved in the transactions.
We often picture climate change drying up rain forests, oceans and other hotbeds of biodiversity. But what happens to regions that are already dry? Far from barren, deserts and drylands sustain a surprising variety of animal species, as well as human life — but not for long, if global temperatures continue to rise. Climate change and human activity are disturbing these delicate ecosystems, and new research shows this could have serious environmental, human and economic consequences.
With 780 million people worldwide drawing their water from unsafe sources, resulting in one child dying every 21 seconds from poor sanitation (e.g., waterborne diseases, diarrhea, dysentery), and with a record U.S. drought straining water supplies for thirsty agricultural fields and city dwellers alike, it may be time to think of H2 O as more than a calorie-free way to slake your thirst between yoga and the gym.
One option is Tank Town, which sells kits that let you capture and filter your own rainwater in something other than an old tire. Since the captured water comes from the sky and is not being drawn up through dirt or down a hill into a reservoir like most of the water we drink, not much filtering is required. Used wisely, it could give a small household a steady supply of water and a handhold on self-sufficiency. Or, t here’s Richard Heinichen’s Happy Water. Heinichen calls it “cloud juice,” and with no chemicals or additives, he claims it’s purer and significantly less hard than most of the water we use to drink, cook and wash our clothes.