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Ebb without Flow: Water May Be the New Oil in a Thirsty Global Economy

[email protected] (The Wharton School)
Is water the new oil? The answer is yes, according to a number of economists, business leaders, scientists and geopolitical strategists, who argue that it’s time to stop taking for granted the substance that covers 70% of the planet and makes up a similar proportion of the human body. Just as the late 20th century saw an oil shock, the early 21st century may feature a water shock, where scarcity leads to a sharp price hike on a resource that has always been plentiful and cheap. Such a scenario could have an even bigger impact than peak oil, transforming markets, governments and ecosystems alike.

The basic story: 97% of the world’s water is salty. Human use of the remaining 3% has boomed, the result of industrialization and the need to produce more food to feed a growing, wealthier population.

… The new awareness about water scarcity, in some ways, represents a return to an awareness that has dominated much of human history. Water has always been linked to economic development, political maneuvering and the threat of violence, even in ostensibly stable places far from the desert and the agricultural economy. In the early days of American independence, New York and Philadelphia battled to be the new nation’s dominant city. One reason New York emerged victorious: It purchased the rights to much of the water between the city and Canada, bringing it into town via an elaborate system of aqueducts, and rendering the city a safer, cheaper and more hygienic place than its erstwhile competitor.
(1 October 2008)

Water debate: The propostion “Water, as a scarce resource, should be priced according to its market value”

The Economist
Pro the motion: ve J. Hoffmann, Managing Director, WaterTech Capital & co-founder, Palisades Water Index Associates
Arguing gainst the motion: Vandana Shiva, Director, Research Foundation for Science, Technology & Natural Resource Policy
You can vote and or comment before October 10th
(3 October 2008)

The Harsh Economics of the Global Water Crisis

Julie Chowdhury, The Wip (posted on AlterNet)
Every morning when you wake up and perform what you may perceive as insignificant chores, you might not realize that for 2.6 billion people around the world, your morning shower or just one flush of the toilet is the essence of luxury. The United Nations has declared that every human being is entitled to 20 liters of safe water every day. In Europe, we have the privilege of using 200 liters per day, while in the US, the average person uses up to 400. The average person in the developing world tries to manage on less than 10 liters of contaminated water to do all their daily chores.

From August 17-23, the Stockholm International Water Institute hosted the 4th annual World Water Week, bringing together 2,500 of the world’s leading water experts to discuss the “progress and prospects on water” with a focus on sanitation. Notable honorary dignitaries, presidents, laureates and ministers discussed the world’s water challenges and revealed the latest innovations for addressing global water issues. I attended a range of seminars that presented strategies to tackle the current global water and sanitation crisis. Confronted with some very alarming findings, I was profoundly moved to recognize that water can be and is a cause for human degradation.

Twenty percent of the world’s population faces water shortages and lives without sustainable access to safe drinking water. At a time of worsening food crises, water resource disputes and global climate change, they further endure poor health due to poor sanitation. The overall water balance has been tipped, resulting in a multitude of conflicts. Estimates show that that global water consumption is increasing at twice the rate of population growth. As Andrew Liveris, CEO of Dow Chemical Company has pointed out in his work, “Water is the oil of this century but the key difference is, water has no substitute.”…
(1 October 2008)