Water in the News
A type of fish so common that practically every American kid who ever dropped a fishing line and a bobber into a pond has probably caught one is being enlisted in the fight against terrorism.
San Francisco, New York, Washington and other big cities are using bluegills — also known as sunfish or bream — as a sort of canary in a coal mine to safeguard their drinking water.
Small numbers of the fish are kept in tanks constantly replenished with water from the municipal supply, and sensors in each tank work around the clock to register changes in the breathing, heartbeat and swimming patterns of the bluegills that occur in the presence of toxins.
“Nature’s given us pretty much the most powerful and reliable early warning centre out there,” said Bill Lawler, cofounder of Intelligent Automation Corporation, a Southern California company that makes and sells the bluegill monitoring system. “There’s no known manmade sensor that can do the same job as the bluegill.” Since Sept. 11, the government has taken very seriously the threat of attacks on the U.S. water supply. Federal law requires nearly all community water systems to assess their vulnerability to terrorism.
Big cities employ a range of safeguards against chemical and biological agents, constantly monitoring, testing and treating the water. But electronic protection systems can trace only the toxins they are programmed to detect, Lawler said.
Bluegills – a hardy species about the size of a human hand – are considered more versatile.
They are highly attuned to chemical disturbances in their environment, and when exposed to toxins, they experience the fish version of coughing, flexing their gills to expel unwanted particles.
The computerized system in use in San Francisco and elsewhere is designed to detect even slight changes in the bluegills’ vital signs and send an e-mail alert when something is wrong.
A primary school in a small Snowy Mountains town in New South Wales has lost its supply of drinking water. It was stolen by thieves, more evidence of how damaging the drought has become. Police believe that they came with a truck over two nights and emptied the fresh water tank. Nimmitabel Primary School has 27 pupils. They have now embarked on a fundraising drive to buy drinking water. Principal Jo Jones said on 18 September 2006 she could not understand how people could do such a thing. About 91.8 per cent of the state is suffering drought conditions.
- Water fights could drain Great Lakes
By John Flesher,Chicago Sun Times September 11, 2006
Once the world’s fourth-largest inland water body, the Aral Sea has shrunk to a quarter of its previous surface area in less than half a century — the result of a Soviet-era decision to
divert rivers feeding the sea to promote farming in that arid section of central Asia.
Peter Annin visited the region while researching his book, The Great Lakes Water Wars, published by Island Press and scheduled for release Sept. 14. The former Newsweek magazine correspondent says he’d heard ominous references to the Aral disaster while studying the debate over Great Lakes water diversion and wanted to see it for himself.
1/5 of fresh surface water “It kind of defies the bounds of the mind to grasp how dire the ecological situation is there,” Annin said in an interview. “When you’re standing on the bottom of a sea bed where there should have been water 45 feet over your head, and instead there’s none as far as the eye can see, how do you see?”
Ecological and political differences make it unlikely the Great Lakes will suffer the Aral’s fate, but the tragedy still conveys a warning, Annin says: ”What it showed to me in a very surreal way was that these giant lakes are vulnerable, they actually can be drained. They are not immune to human destruction.”
His premise is that an era of warring over the Great Lakes is under way — and will intensify as the global water shortage worsens. The lakes’ future hangs in the balance as leaders grapple with preserving nearly one-fifth of the world’s fresh surface water, Annin writes.
The book comes nine months after representatives of the eight Great Lakes states signed a compact that most diversions of water outside the drainage basin require each state to regulate water use and establish a regional standard for large-scale water withdrawals. The Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec pledged separately to adopt the same policies.
But the compact still faces an uphill climb, needing approval of legislatures in each state and the U.S.Congress to take effect.
‘WHO WILL WIN?’
Excerpt from The Great Lakes Water Wars, by Peter Annin:
”Today I stand on the shores of Lake Superior and I see a naive innocent, a voluptuous bounty on the verge of violation. I see millions of angry, parched people from far-flung avenues who view ‘undeveloped water’ as a wasted opportunity. I see dryland farmers clamoring with sharp spigots, claiming they can’t feed the world without more irrigation. I see thousands of massive supertankers lining up on behalf of millions of thirsty Asians. . . . I see wasteful water practices throughout the Great Lakes that historians will look back upon with scorn. I see water that most see the value in taking, and few see the value in leaving. I see millions upon millions of Great Lakes residents who underestimate the struggle that awaits them. ”On the shores of Lake Superior, I don’t see a lake. I see a sprawling deep blue battleground that stretches from Duluth, Minnesota,to Trois Rivieres, Quebec — and I wonder, who will win the war?”
A worldwide lack of water and energy supplies could spark wars, warns former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev. Delivering the opening address at the Earth Dialogues forum in Brisbane today, Mr Gorbachev said resources such as water had become so scarce that basins of major rivers shared by several countries could one day become sites of military conflict. “Clean drinking water, and water that can be used for irrigation, is in short supply in many countries, even today,” Mr Gorbachev said. “In 2001, secretary general of the UN (United Nations), Kofi Annan, said that in the new century we may see wars over water, rather than over oil, and that is not an exaggeration.
“The probable site for military conflicts could be basins of major rivers that are shared by several countries, such as (the) Ganges, Mekong … Zambesi, the Orange River, Okavango, Senegal and others.” Mr Gorbachev said another potential source of conflict was the Husbani River, which begins in southern Lebanon, a country currently experiencing a water shortage, and runs into Israel.
The three-day forum explores issues such as climate change, human development, economic growth and poverty. Mr Gorbachev, who won a Nobel prize in 1990 for his contribution to ending the Cold War, said despite an increasing lack of resources “we are still acting in a very wasteful way”. “This is of great concern. It is a problem that basically comes down to the future of mankind,” he said. Mr Gorbachev said by 2020 the “water crisis” would spread across half the world, leaving many countries without drinking water and proper sanitation.
“This kind of situation could only result in a global cataclysm,” he said. Mr Gorbachev, the head of environmental group Green Cross International, was also critical over the lack of time being spent finding alternative energy resources, saying too much time had been wasted in the development of solar energy. “The position of Green Cross International calls for accelerated use of renewable sources of energy, in particular solar energy,” Mr Gorbachev said. “At the same time, we are calling for serious and effective steps to more efficiently use the traditional sources of energy.”
An anonymous group of eco-warriors in the United Kingdom have threatened to destroy greens at at least five golf courses unless the clubs reduce water consumption by 25 percent and return 10 percent of their courses “to nature.” The threat was issued in the aftermath of a ban on hoses and sprinklers for domestic purposes by seven water companies. One course, The Park, in Wick, already was vandalized; several greens were dug up with spades. Park, Lansdown GC, Bath GC, Entry Hill GC and the Approach GC all received the threatening letters. Police are using forensic experts to search the letters for DNA evidence that might provide clues. Wentworth, home to the World Match Play Championship, was not among those targeted, despite being located in the area most affected by the water
shortage. “Being Wentworth and being famous we could easily be next,”Stuart Christie, club secretary, told the Times.
Research conducted by the public health laboratory service (PHLL) in the UK, has found evidence of food poisoning bacteria in aircraft drinking water. PHLL’s evidence, collected from 13 airports and aircraft operated by 21 airlines, discovered a contamination failure rate of 9%, compared with a 0% rate on tests of the mains supply water from which the aircraft water was drawn. Indications suggest that the report will also reveal wide discrepancies in contamination levels between airports. BAA, , which manages seven British airports has expressed confidence that it will be given a clean bill of health.
Twelve U.S. airlines agreed to under take additional testing and disinfection of tap water on aircraft, and to notify the public if water does not meet Environmental Protection Agency standards.
Signing agreements with the EPA were Alaska, Aloha, American, America West, ATA, Continental, Hawaiian, Jet Blue, Midwest, Northwest, United and US Airways. Delta and Southwest are negotiating separate agreements.
Tests have shown that drinking water on 12.6% of 158 domestic and international aircraft did not meet EPA standards.
A study that traces antibiotic-resistance genes in the environment indicates that they are present even in treated drinking water. The researchers behind the work and other scientists assert that the genes should be considered environmental contaminants and advocate environmental-engineering approaches toward limiting the spread of drug resistance.
In recent decades, over-prescribing of antibiotics and widespread application of the drugs to farm animals have increased microbial resistance. The resistant microbes spread through human and farm populations. The antibiotics end up in human and animal waste and can reach the environment, where resistance can also develop in soil- and water-dwelling bacteria. These bacteria might then transfer the resistance genes to microbes that affect people.
The genes that enable bacteria to resist antibiotics, for instance by expelling the drugs, can be exchanged between microbes in several ways. Amy Pruden, an environmental engineer at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, notes that bacteria may also pick up free DNA.
Pruden and her colleagues decided to track the spread of antibiotic-resistance genes through an environment. The team used a method that would detect specific DNA sequences, whether from bacterial cells or their surroundings.
The researchers took sediment samples at five locations along the Cache la Poudre River in Colorado, beginning at its origin in the Rocky Mountains and continuing east to downstream sites in agricultural and urban areas. They also sampled water from irrigation ditches and waste-collection lagoons on dairy farms near the fiver. All the samples were then tested for four genes known to make bacteria resistant to the antibiotics tetracycline or fonamide.
The highest concentrations of three of the genes turned up in dairy-lagoon water, followed by irrigation-ditch water and then river sediments near agricultural and urban areas. That pattern suggests a pathway of resistance genes moving from the lagoons, through the ditches, and into the river, say the researchers.
In separate tests, the team also found two genes that carry resistance to tetracycline in Colorado drinking water and recycled wastewater. Current methods of treating drinking water aren’t getting rid of the genes, says Pruden.
The team reports its findings in an upcoming Environmental Science & Technology.
Pedro J.Alvarez, an environmental engineer at Rice University in Houston, calls the work “very important.” The discovery of antibiotic-resistance genes in drinking water demonstrates the “ubiquitous nature of the problem,” he says.
Recycling water bottles is a tough job. Different types of plastics are very difficult to sort, and can’t be recycled together. Common plastic additives such as phthalates or metal salts can also thwart recycling efforts as can too high a ratio of colored bottles (such as Dasani’s blue containers) to clear bottles. Because of the challenges, many recycling centers refuse to accept plastics. In fact, a fair amount of America’s plastic recycling is done in Asia, where laxer environmental laws govern polluting factories and fuel is spent in international transport.
According to a report recently released by the California Department of Conservation (CDOC), more than one billion water bottles are ending up in the state’s trash each year, representing enough plastic to make 74 million square feet of carpet or 16 million sweaters. Darryl Young, the director of CDOC, says only 16 percent of PET (polyethylene terephthalate) water bottles sold in California are being recycled, compared to much higher rates for aluminum and glass. “It’s good people are drinking water, but we need to do more outreach to promote recycling,”says Young.
Franklin says one potential deterrent to recycling may be that water bottles are often used away from home, meaning they aren’t likely to make it into curbside bins. Young advises people
to ask for recycling bins in retail and public spaces.
Industry analysts point out that demand exceeds supply in the market for recycled PET plastic, which is used in a range of goods from flowerpots to plastic lumber. Franklin says deposit systems, or so-called bottle bills, would go a long way to improving the collection of used water bottles, especially since only half the country has curbside recycling available. But only a few states have bottle bills, largely because of strong opposition from the container, beverage and retail industries.
But as BBC News concluded, “The conservationists are fighting an uphill battle. The bottled water market is booming…and shows no signs of drying up.” More and more environmentalists are beginning to question the purpose of lugging those heavy, inefficient, polluting bottles all over the Earth. The parent organization of the WWF, the Switzerland-based World Wide Fund for Nature, argues strongly that the product is a waste of money and is very environmentally unfriendly. Co-op America concludes: “By far the cheapest—and often the safest—option is to drink water from a tap. It’s also the most environmentally friendly option.” Friends of the Earth says, “We might as well drink water from the tap and save all this waste.”
The WWF argues that the distribution of bottled water requires substantially more fuel than delivering tap water, especially since over 22 million tons of the bottled liquid is transferred each year from country to country. Instead of relying on a mostly preexisting infrastructure of underground pipes and plumbing, delivering bottled water—often from places as far-flung as France, Iceland or Maine—burns fossil fuels and results in the release of thousands of tons of harmful emissions. Since some bottled water is also shipped or stored cold, electricity is expended for refrigeration. Energy is likewise used in bottled water processing. In filtration, an estimated two gallons of water is wasted for every gallon purified.
The WWF estimates that around 1.5 million tons of plastic are used globally each year in water bottles, leaving a sizable manufacturing footprint. Most water bottles are made of the oil-derived polyethylene terephthalate, which is known as PET. While PET is less toxic than many plastics, the Berkeley Ecology Center found that manufacturing PET generates more than 100 times the toxic emissions—in the form of nickel, ethylbenzene, ethylene oxide and benzene—compared to making the same amount of glass. The Climate Action Network concludes, “Making plastic bottles requires almost the same energy input as making glass bottles, despite transport savings that stem from plastic’s light weight.”
A considerable number of used water bottles end up as litter, where they can take up to 1,000 years to biodegrade. A 2002 study by Scenic Hudson reported that 18 percent by volume of recovered litter from the Hudson River (and 14 percent by weight) was comprised of beverage containers.
Pat Franklin, the executive director of the Container Recycling Institute (CRI), says nine out of 10 plastic water bottles end up as either garbage or litter—at a rate of 30 million per day. According to the Climate Action Network, when some plastic bottles are incinerated along with other trash, as is the practice in many municipalities, toxic chlorine (and potentially dioxin) is released into the air while heavy metals deposit in the ash. If plastics are buried in landfills, not only do they take up valuable space, but potentially toxic additives such as phthalates may leak into the groundwater. “It’s ironic that many people drink bottled water because they are afraid of tap water, but then the bottles they discard can result in more polluted water,” says Franklin. “It’s a crazy cycle.”
Franklin also acknowledges that although her group is a strong advocate of recycling, the very concept may encourage people to consume more plastics. Replacing used water bottles with new containers made from virgin resources consumes energy and pollutes the air, land and water. CRI estimates that supplying thirsty Americans with water bottles for one year consumes more than 1.5 million barrels of oil, which is enough to generate electricity for more than 250,000 homes for a year, or enough to fuel 100,000 cars for a year.
West Africa has the lowest coverage of drinking water and sanitation in the world, and the numbers are rising not falling, according to the United Nations children’s agency (UNICEF).
As populations have boomed throughout the region, the absolute number of people without drinking water increased from 124 million in 1990 to 157 million in 2004, and the number without sanitation from 173 million to 225 million, according to a UNICEF report released on Friday.
West and Central Africa have the highest under-five mortality rate of all developing regions. Out of every 1,000 children born, 191 will die before their fifth birthday.
“It is a tragedy,” Esther Guluma, UNICEF’s regional director for West and Central Africa, told reporters. “Worldwide, 1.5 million children every year will not live to see their fifth birthday – they will die of a preventable diseases, including diarrhoea. Many millions more will suffer to survive through persistent water- and sanitation-related diseases.”
There are still five countries in the region where less than half of the population has access to improved drinking water sources: Chad, Equatorial Guinea, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Niger and Nigeria.
Only four of the region’s 24 countries have provided sanitation facilities, such as latrines and washrooms, to more than half of their population. They are: Senegal, Equatorial Guinea, Gambia and Cameroon.
Improved sanitation facilities could reduce diarrhoea-related diseases in young children by more than one-third, according to UNICEF, or by two-thirds if combined with better hygiene practices.
Only Senegal is expected to achieve its Millennium Development Goal sanitation target among countries in the region.
The UN’s humanitarian coordination office (OCHA) has determined that emergencies in the West and Central African countries of Cote d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Republic of the Congo, Liberia and the Central African Republic are “chronically under-funded”, with water and sanitation projects among the least funded sectors.
“For the past 10 years more emphasis has been placed on providing food than infrastructure,” UNICEF’s Guluma said. “In situations of emergency, the provision of wells and hand pumps is considered a more permanent development, so it is not provided,” she said. “But more people die from the lack of availability of safe water to drink than the lack of food because of diarrhoea, so it is very true that the balance needs to change.”
Speaking to world leaders at the Clinton Global Initiative, Laura Bush announced a $16.4 million investment by the U.S. government, the Case Foundation and The MCJ Foundation to expand the installation of PlayPump(tm) water pumping systems throughout sub-Saharan Africa. The public-private partnership will help provide the benefits of clean drinking water to millions of children and their families.
Powered by play, the PlayPump(tm) water system is a children’s merry-go-round attached to a water pump and storage tank. In addition to providing safe drinking water, the pioneering product uses advertising billboards located on the storage tank to deliver powerful educational messages to children and families. The advertising revenue helps ensure a decade of system maintenance.
Jean Case, CEO of the Case Foundation, said, “Limited access to clean drinking water has a profound impact on the quality of life of children and families in sub-Saharan Africa. As Americans, we tend to take clean drinking water for granted, but in Africa it can be the difference between basic health and disease, between stability and poverty, and between life and death. Providing a clean water solution to an African community can open the doors of opportunity in so many areas — health, education, gender equality and economic development.”
The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the U.S. Agency for InternationalDevelopment (USAID) have pledged $10 million over three years to underwrite PlayPump(tm) systems through the nonprofit organization PlayPumps International. The Case Foundation will invest $5 million, and The MCJ Foundation will donate an additional $1.4 million.
“Clean water in clinics where HIV/AIDS is treated promotes good health among people living with HIV/AIDS – just one of many ways this project will serve communities,” noted Ambassador Mark R. Dybul, U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator.
To date, more than 700 PlayPump(tm) systems have been installed in southern Africa, providing the benefits of clean drinking water and educational messages to more than a million people. Today’s announcement will more than double the number of active pumps and bring PlayPumps International, a non-profit organization that partners with individuals, governments, foundations and companies closer to its goal of providing clean drinking water to 10 million people in 10 countries by 2010.
WILL the world run short of water to grow crops? Not if it invests in the right projects, according to a group of scientists and economists that has been studying the question for the past five years. The “Comprehensive Assessment”, co-ordinated by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, an international network of research institutes, will not be released until November. But at a recent conference in Sweden, they revealed some preliminary findings. The good news is that small investments in infrastructure for water can yield big returns. Unfortunately, governments and donors have concentrated on more grandiose but less helpful schemes, leaving a third of the world’s population -some 2 billion people- short of water.
Agriculture sucks up perhaps 95% of the water humans use. It takes roughly 3,000 litres to grow enough food for one person for one day, or about one litre for each calorie. Moreover, the world’s population is growing, and people are eating more than they used to. So the assessment’s projections suggest that if nothing changes, agriculture will consume twice as much water by 2050 as it does today.
That is a tall order: as it is, some 900m people, the assessment finds, live in river basins where humans consume more than 75% of the water, leaving barely enough to keep rivers flowing and lakes filled. Another 700m live in basins rapidly approaching this “closed” state; 1 billion more live within reach of adequate water supplies, but cannot afford to gain access to them. The water table is falling fast in densely populated and poor regions of China, Mexico and India.
In theory, the world should still have more than enough water to feed everyone under most circumstances, thanks to sodden places like Canada and Russia. But exploiting the surplus would require much more trade in food from damp spots to the parched ones. A few poor, dry and teeming countries, such as Egypt, along with the odd rich one, like Japan, already depend on imports of food. But most governments are lothe to put their citizens at the mercy of the world’s imperfect markets.
Instead, governments have tended to try to increase agricultural output through expensive irrigation projects. But smaller investments in simple devices, such as pumps to tap groundwater, are faster to deploy, yield greater returns on capital and bring fewer environmental and social problems. A recent study of vegetable farmers in Ghana, for example, found that those irrigating their fields with wastewater carried by buckets earned a 230% return on their investment, versus 30% for big state-sponsored schemes.
The assessment argues that modest outlays on rain-fed agriculture, in particular, could drastically improve the productivity of farming in poor countries and so help both to raise farmers’ incomes and also to cut the need for an expansion of agriculture elsewhere. More than half of the world’s food comes from rain-fed farms, as opposed to irrigated ones. If the rains fail, so do the crops. Channels to harvest and direct rainfall and small, sealed reservoirs or tanks to store it, would not only see farmers through dry spells, but also allow them to entice bigger or more valuable harvests out of the same fields. More reliable income, in turn, allows farmers to invest more in seeds, fertiliser and machinery.
In Tanzania rainwater harvesting allows farmers to grow rice or vegetables instead of staples like sorghum and maize. These dearer crops bring in at least twice the revenue and up to seven times as much in good years. If adopted on a grand scale, the assessment argues, such techniques could double crop yields. In that case, the area under cultivation globally would have to rise by only 10% to satisfy growing demand for food by 2050–and there would be plenty of water to go around.
In a country like the United States, one of the human body’s most urgent needs is taken for granted. It comes easily out of our faucets, and gallon jugs of it cost less than a dollar.
Until something like a hurricane makes clean drinking water hard to find.
But the Southeast’s climate provides something besides hurricanes in summer: Humidity.
As emergency officials ponder how to better help their residents after disasters, some companies are pushing machines that pull the humidity from the air and turn it into drinking water. A few are also touting the machines as a potential solution to the clean water shortages that plague the Third World, pushing aside concerns that the machines are inefficient and require fuel that also might be scarce.
The biggest machines can make 5,000 liters (1,323 gallons) of water a day, enough to provide about a gallon to 1,250 people. Small units cost several hundred dollars, while the biggest, most elaborate cost half a million.
“Tap water systems get knocked out, bottled water often disappears even before the storm shows up … so this becomes a way to get drinking water that you can count on no matter what,” said Jonathan Wright, president of Ogden, Utah-based AquaMagic, one of the companies selling the machines.
The company recently towed a portable unit around the Southeast, visiting fire departments, rescue workers and city officials, trying to drum up interest.
AquaMagic’s unit is too small to provide water for a whole city, but could at least provide water for rescue and cleanup workers so they wouldn’t have to cart in truckloads of water, Wright said.
One potential buyer is David Roberts, who as fire chief in Biloxi, Mississippi, oversaw crews working in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, which leveled much of his city.
“You don’t realize how bad you need water until you don’t have it,” Roberts said. “In August, the humidity’s 95 percent and its 95 degrees, you can drink a quart of water and it goes right out of you in about 30 minutes.”
He called the AquaMagic machine “a great piece of equipment. The water tasted good, too.”
Most of the companies making the machines aren’t focused on the U.S. market.
Some, including one based in Miami Beach and another in Hollywood, Florida, are selling machines where clean drinking water is always hard to find – villages in the developing world.
Scientists who study water shortages say that while the technology works simply and could be part of the solution, there are cheaper and easier ways to provide large-scale water purification if cleanliness is the issue.
The simplest is boiling it to remove microbes, or treating it with chemicals like chlorine, said Dr. Mark Sobsey, a professor of environmental sciences and engineering at the University of North Carolina School of Public Health’s Drinking Water Research Center.
But boiling has a problem in some poor areas.
“You’ve got to have fuel and to be able to pay for it,” Sobsey notes.
But the biggest obstacle to the machines’ wider use is making them cost effective to fuel. Most are powered by diesel fuel. Some run on solar energy, but the panels require a costly initial investment.
Michael Zwebner, the president of Miami Beach-based Air Water Corp., admits the power question is a big problem, but he says the machines can be useful where there isn’t enough water to begin with – or where people can’t afford to pump it from the ground and treat it.
“In many parts of Africa, there is no water,” Zwebner said. “In some countries in Africa they actually see this machine as an act of God,”
Until recently, there’s been little interest in the technology because water is generally easy to get from streams or underground wells and, even in poor countries, it’s cheap.
“It’s been really only in the last 10 years that water scarcity has been appearing in a lot of places, mainly due to the growth of the human population … and pollution,” explained Roland Wahlgren, a physical geographer who studies water supply and is working to develop air-to-water systems with a Canadian company called Wataire Industries. “Groundwater and surface water supplies have decreased in quality.”
Aquamagic’s envisioned niche notwithstanding, the systems still aren’t generally economically feasible on a large scale in developed countries with plentiful clean water like the United States.
And emergency managers ask: If you’re going to truck diesel fuel into a storm-hit area to run the machines, why not just truck in water?
The answer, AquaMagic’s Wright says, is that for one gallon of diesel, you can make 10 gallons (38 liters) of water. So one small truck of fuel would provide the amount of water you’d need 10 trucks to bring in.
Air Water’s machine was used after the 2004 Asian tsunami, and the military in India has recently signed on to send it into the field with troops.
Right now, there’s one commodity that sells at gas stations for almost twice the price of gasoline – and U.S. consumers never complain about it.
In fact, this precious resource we often take for granted is in critical shortage in more than 80 countries worldwide. And it will forever be in high demand, as every living being’s survival depends on it.
Of course, the commodity I’m talking about is water. And the effects of its shortage are of major concern…
Nearly 40% of the world’s population does not have access to clean water. And this problem is not going away anytime soon. It’s actually getting worse…
Less than 2% of the world’s water store is fresh water – to quench the thirst of 6 billion people. And according to the International Food Policy Research Institute, by 2020, an additional 2 billion people will be competing for this shrinking resource.
But the problem isn’t 14 years from now; the problem is now. Below, we’ll review why investing in water is turning out to be the most profitable investment of the 21st century. But first, let’s look at the problem…
At this moment, clean, safe water is scarce across the globe. Fortunately, several players in the private sector are working hard to solve this problem. And for investors, this industry provides perhaps the most profitable opportunities of the 21st century.
Two Catalysts: Global Warming And Population Growth
Water is the single-largest health problem in the entire world. According to SIWI.org, 90% of the 5,000 daily child deaths are related to some sort of diarrhea-related sease.
And torrid population growth is not only stressing water use, it’s causing massive pollution and depleting the largest aquifers on the planet. Unstable politics of water-poor communities, states and countries is triggering heated tensions – and in some cases, all-out wars. And global warming is drying up lakes, eroding shorelines and depleting rivers.
Consider the fllowing:
- Within 50 years, more than half of the global population will be living with water shortages. They will affect 4 billion people by 2050.
- The Dead Sea has dropped more than 66 feet in the past 100 years and is now losing about 3 feet each year.
- Lake Chad in Africa is now 1/20 the size it was 35 years ago.
- Water-borne diseases kill one child every 8 seconds.
According to the National Academy of Sciences, Mother Earth is now the hottest it’s been for at least 400 years.
More specifically, over the last 100 years the surface temperature of the Earth has risen 1 degree Fahrenheit. And while that doesn’t sound like too much, it’s enough to wreak havoc on eco-systems, erode shorelines, dry aquifers and cause massive water shortages all over the world.
According to the IPCC, if global warming is not stopped, the earth could heat up another 3 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of this century. Time magazine points out that, “Mount Kilimanjaro has lost 75% of its ice cap…” Moreover, it could completely lose ALL of its ice by 2020.
The result is less inland snow, a reduced amount of fresh river water, drying aquifers, and intense strain on any ecosystem relying on irrigation. With entire regions becoming unsuitable for crop production, both food and water will need to be transported into the water-deprived nations, dramatically hindering their ability to contribute to world GDP.
And the world’s fast-growing population isn’t helping the situation…
From the beginning of time through the middle of the 1900s, the global population grew at a steady – but not alarming – rate. Now, it’s multiplying exponentially.
There are just over 6.1 billion people on the planet right now, but by 2050, census officials predict there could be as many as 9 billion people on Earth. And more demand for water simply means that the already under-supplied resource will become scarcer in the years to come.
The World Bank points out that global demand for water is doubling every 21 years. And, at present, 1 billion people on the planet don’t have access to safe water. “In Latin America alone, about 15% of the population – roughly 76 million people – lack safe water, and 116 million don’t have access to sanitation services.”
So how do we solve this water crisis?
Opportunity in Water Investing Is “Dripping” From This Shortage
The answer lies in the private sector – companies working night and day to solve the world’s water woes. The global water industry has been heating up for several decades, and the story’s certainly not new.
Many savvy investors have already recognized that investing in water stocks is simply the investment of a lifetime. Some have already locked in huge profits over the past few years. Here are just a few examples of water investment successes:
Investors who put $10,000 dollars in Consolidated Water (Nasdaq: CWCO) in 2000 banked a cool $71,061.43 by February of 2006.
0.Water has to be moved, as well… and the lucky few who invested $10,000 in the IPO of American Commercial Lines (Nasdaq: ACLI) in the early part of 2005 would have made more than 310% by May of 2006.
And these profits are just the beginning of what could be the greatest investment of the 21st century.
Think of it this way: Bottled water sells for roughly $1.50 a liter at the gas station right now, while gasoline sells for around $3 a gallon. With 3.78 liters in a gallon, bottled water would be selling for $5.67 a gallon – almost twice the price of gasoline. And water companies don’t have to build expensive oil wells and refining plants that are toxic and environmentally unfriendly. The overall cost to bring water to market is, in many cases, lower.
In the end, investing in water stocks is a smart play all around for those seeking constant, stable returns. Global Summit Management (SGM) reports that from 2000 to 2005, water utility stocks returned 134.57%, while the S&P 500 clocked in at a mere 2.74%.
And those who invested in water stocks for a 10-year period were even happier. The stocks banked 446.01% from 1995 to 2005, versus 9.06% in the S&P.
The incidence of moderate drought will double to affect half the world by the end of the century unless greenhouse gas emissions are curbed, according to a study.
Computer modelling of the effect of global warming on water levels conducted by the Met Office, Britain’s official weather forecaster, also suggests severe droughts could rise sharply, in the absence of action to limit emissions from the consumption of fossil fuels.
Worsening water shortages threaten to lead to intensifying problems of starvation and international conflict.
The Met Office forecasts, to be published shortly in a US journal, are based on a projection of reasonably strong global economic growth, with no mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions. In that scenario, global temperatures rise by 1.3 to 4.5 degrees celsius by the century’s end.
That would mean moderate drought-defined as water levels experienced during the driest fifth of months in a region in the past 50 years – occurring
As more people come to Vancouver Island, remember that water is a precious commodity
It seems scarcely believable that such a thing could happen. Tofino, a community that receives three metres of rainfall every year, came within days of exhausting its water supply.
The local reservoir ran nearly dry, leaving scarcely enough even for emergencies such as firefighting.
Worse still, it happened in the run-up to Labour Day, with thousands of tourists in town and local businesses at high gear for the last holiday weekend of the summer. And most alarming of all, it occurred almost without warning.
Just five days after the town administrator indicated a mild reduction in water use would be sufficient, the mayor dropped a bombshell. Hotels were advised a Stage Five shutdown was in progress and given two days to clear out their guests and close. Restaurants, along with the rest of the town’s businesses, were directed to cease using water immediately.
Residential customers were asked to cut consumption by 30 per cent, and officials made preparations for a Stage Six closure. That would have meant turning off the entire domestic water supply. Had this happened, the only public source of drinking water in Tofino would have been a tap in the municipal yard.
Thankfully, the crisis was averted at the last minute, when a local businessman, Chris LeFevre, showed up at an emergency council meeting and plunked $50,000 on the table. Arrangements were made to truck in supplies, and for now at least, the worst may be over.
But the relief came too late to avoid a major black eye for the region’s tourist industry.
Innkeepers, among them operators of world-famous resorts, scrambled to divert visitors ahead of the long weekend, and staff were laid off.
There is a lesson here for all of us, and a warning.
Tofino has the second-highest accumulation of rainfall in the world. Vancouver Island had a bumper snowfall over the winter months and this year’s spring was relatively wet.
If in these circumstances Tofino is vulnerable, so are we all.
We’re not interested in finger-pointing, but let’s start by getting clear who is not to blame. Asked where the responsibility lay, Tofino Mayor John Fraser answered: “The Person up above.” The mayor had better get down on his knees and ask forgiveness, because what happened had nothing to do with divine intervention.
We created this problem all by ourselves.
Tofino is a scaled-down version of every good-sized community on Vancouver Island. The town has a permanent population of about 2,000, but during the tourist season, visitors may push that number to 20,000.
It was this tenfold surge, concentrated in the hot summer months, that overwhelmed local water capacity.
The same influx of tourists occurs in the capital region. Greater Victoria has 335,000 residents, but last year there were 3.6 million overnight visitors.
That’s like the combined population of Toronto and Ottawa coming to visit every summer.
Our water system is designed to serve those who live here, and for that purpose, it may be adequate. But the strength of any system is measured at its weakest point, and in the case of water supply, that weak point is peak demand.
If Tourism B.C. has its way, that demand will double in the next 10 years.
The Crown corporation plans to spend $50 million a year encouraging twice as many vacationers to visit this province.
Whether that’s even vaguely manageable in terms of water reserves is a good question.
The past decade has seen unusual levels of drought across B.C.
As the province’s water sustainability plan warns: “With climate change expected to depress normal flows and replenishment, water shortages can be expected to become more frequent and protracted.” Yet most of our communities have only the most rudimentary water conservation programs. Half of all drinking water is still wasted on lawns and gardens.
Low-flow faucets and dual-flush toilets are a rarity. Water- efficient domestic dishwashers and washing machines are scarcely ever used, and waste-water recycling is in its infancy.
Several towns on Vancouver Island and in the Lower Mainland haven’t even got around to installing that most basic of management devices — the domestic water meter.
The City of Burnaby has this tosay about metering on its website: “We are not yet certain if savings would outweigh the costs.” That kind of head-in-the-sand approach could be the undoing of us all. Setting out to increase peak water demand massively, at a time of shrinking reserves and half-hearted to nonexistent forward planning, is a recipe for more Tofinos. Lots of them.
We occupy one of the most beautiful locations in the world. We have a duty, as well as a vested interest,to preserve it.
What happened two weeks ago just a few hours’ drive from Victoria is a wake-up call for all of us.
If we fail, through inertia or lack of foresight, it will do no good blaming “the Person up above.” We need a serious water- conservation program, and we need it now.
Did you know that the GraingerChallenge is looking for inventions that will create cheap, easy-to-use treatments for removing toxins from drinking water. The National Academy of Engineering will award $1 million to the first-place winner in February. But, it must be kept simple. The best device will require no maintenance or electricity.
“MsoNormal” style=”margin: 2pt 0in 4pt; text-align: justify;”>Did you know that drinking water may actually help you lose weight. Research has shown that being dehydrated makes you feel hungry and may cause you to overeat.
If your cat insists on drinking water leftovers from your bath or shower 1. Try a different shape/depth of drinking bowl. 2. Put the bowl in a different place (cats may not like the drinking water next to their food.)
Today close to one-fifth of the population in Canada relies exclusively on bottled water for their daily hydration.
Canada ranks a dismal 28th among the 29 nations of the OECD in terms of per capita water consumption. Only Americans use more water than Canadians. Canada uses 1,600 cubic metres of water per person per year. This is more than twice as much water as the average person from France, three times as much as the average German, almost four times as much as the average Swede and more than eight times as much as the average Dane. Canada’s per capita water consumption is 65% above the OECD average.
March 22 is World Water Day, which asserts “the fundamental right of all people to safe, clean water.”
Watergame is a new board game on water conservation for students from ages 7 to 10. Players start with 20 gallons of water and make their way down a stream to the ocean. As they go, they answer questions that reinforce water facts, and gain or lose water through actions described on cards that they draw (e.g., “Repair a leaky faucet. Gain 11 gallons.). At the end of the game everyone must have at least 10 gallons or no one wins! The game materials are all recycled or Earth-friendly. US$30 from Adventerra Games, Italy.
According to Aaron Teasdale ofBike Magazine 9.2 (March 2002): p68(1).
Cyclists in Colorado Springs, Colorado, lost access to trails around Rampart Reservoir, as has every other trail user, over concerns of a terrorist attack on the city’s water supply. Efforts to convince authorities that mountain bikers are all gentle-souled peaceniks proved fruitless.
The Municipality of Dubai tried reducing the 150,000 litres a day water consumption when its 2,000 Dubai perform ablution before prayers. Water saving faucets with narrower spouts were introduced and consumption was reduced by 90% to 20 000 litres.
Humans are made up of about 70 per cent water.
The food we eat is 90 per cent water.
In the U.S bottled water in single-serve plastic packages debuted in 1989. Since 1999 Bottled Water sales have gone up 40%,Wine 20%, Coffee 5%, Carbonated soft drinks
1%, Milk down 2% and Tea down 10%
Water consumption in New York City is similar to levels five decades ago, even though the population is now higher.
A 1997 United Nations report concluded that bottled water has no nutritional advantage over tap water.
Plastic water bottles can take 1,000 years to biodegrade.
Nine out of 10 water bottles in the US end up as garbage or litter – 30 million per day
Americans spend around $10,700 on bottled water every minute,
The Roman Emperor Augustus commissioned a massive aqueduct to be built in his name. The 60 mile long Aqua Augusta was completed in BC 33 and supplied towns in the Bay of Napoli, Italy, until AD 79 when it was destroyed by the eruption of nearby Mount Vesuvius.
The water system of first century AD Rome supplied the city with substantially more water than was supplied in 1985 to New York City.
“Bar” serves alkaline water
The Associated Press January 24, 2007, 3:45PM EST text size: TT
Suburban water bar offers 33 kinds
By JIM FITZGERALD
Even at the finest Manhattan restaurants, the trendiest Hollywood clubs, the most luxurious spas, it would be remarkable: a menu offering 33 kinds of bottled water.
But this list is found at a tiny suburban cafe with four tables, no front door and no cooking beyond a toaster and a waffle iron.
At Via Genova, the fare runs to cold Italian sandwiches, salads, desserts and Hawaiian coffee.
Then there’s the water. As the cafe’s ad says, it’s the “ultimate hydration station.”
The stock comes from 15 countries on five continents and costs from $4 to $55 a bottle. The menu provides a bit of history for each brand, and discloses its pH and “total dissolved solids” content. Several of the bottles are corked.
There’s a Japanese one that comes in what looks like a sake bottle (“Goes great with sushi,” says cafe owner Diane Felicissimo). An Italian water “is rumored to be the water of choice at the Vatican.” The Canadian one called 10 Thousand BC is “the world’s finest luxury glacier water.”
The prestige item, and the only United States entry, is Bling H2O, which comes in a corked, glazed-glass bottle decorated with Swarovski crystals and costs $55 for three-quarters of a liter.
“Everybody loves it,” Felicissimo says. “Someone came in and bought a bunch of bottles for Christmas gifts.”
The Bronx-born Felicissimo, who now lives in North Castle, opened the cafe two months ago in the rear of a building just off Chappaqua’s main shopping street. To enter, a patron walks to a back corner of the parking lot, between two nearly adjacent buildings and in through the back door. Dozens of water bottles, each a different shape, make up a window display.
As she planned her dream restaurant, which is named for the Bronx fish market where her grandfather worked, the 32-year-old mother of two decided she wouldn’t serve booze.
A former social worker who did drug and alcohol counseling, “I thought, water is something the whole family can enjoy, but I didn’t want to have the same water as everybody else.”
There’s no Poland Spring, Perrier or San Pellegrino here.
“I did my research on the waters of the world, and a supplier gave me a little sampler, and I was in love,” she said.
She acknowledges that not everyone can tell the difference between, say, the Cape Karoo from South Africa (“with a pH level the same as the human body’s”) and the Ty Nant from Wales (“light due to its low bicarbonates”).
“It takes a lot of thought and a lot of awareness of your taste buds to really taste the differences of the waters. You can taste the sodium, you can taste the calcium, the more you drink.”
“This is not water you guzzle,” she said. “You taste, you sip, you feel, you enjoy.”
She said one coffee maven couldn’t tell two waters apart — until they were used to make some joe.
“Then he was convinced,” she said. “His taste buds were tuned for coffee.”
Pam Rosman of Chappaqua, who runs a pet-sitting service, said she has been to the cafe three or four times and has sampled the Voss water from Norway (“shielded for centuries under layers of ice and rock”).
“Whoever knew there were that many kinds of water?” she said. “It’s cute, it’s different.”
As for the cafe’s chances of success, Rosman said, “A lot of people are going to think she’s out of her mind. But I think when the weather warms up it will be very popular.”
Felicissimo has sent an invitation to Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton, the former president and senator who live in Chappaqua, but “they haven’t discovered me yet,” she said.
Even without them, she’s selling about $400 in water each week, she says. Besides serving it at the cafe, she sells it retail and offers to be the water caterer at offsite events.
Customers range from the skeptical, who “swear by their Chappaqua tap water” to those highly educated about bottled water, Felicissimo said.
“A lady came in and asked if I had any water with a pH of 9,” the owner said. “She said, `I want to keep my body in a good alkaline state.’
“The best I could do was an 8.”