Barcelona Imports Water from France

drinking water, drought, economy, general, water trade

Barcelona Water Imports

This ship, docked in Barcelona, Catalonia, is carrying 5.3 million gallons of water in 20 storage tanks. This water will serve up to 180,000 people for one day in the capital city. Photo courtesy AP/Manu Fernandez

Spain is enduring a drought. Reservoirs in Barcelona are at 20 percent capacity, and rainfall has been minimal over the past four years. The government has opted, as a short-term answer to this water crisis, to import water from Tarragona, Spain and Marseilles, France. The water will arrive on ten ships (like the one above) each month over the next six months.

Total Price Tag = $68 Million

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‘The politics of oil and water’ – Interviews on Big Think

drinking water, economy, film, international, outreach, rivers, water availability, water trade

Several interviews on the ‘politics of oil and water’ are featured this week on Big Think, a website of ideas from people on everything including the environment. The following people and others were asked about “access to oil and water as a human right, sources of alternative energy and the future of global conflicts over resources”.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Global Water Index: Investments for Privatized Water

economy, international, investments, water privitization, water trade

You may have heard the phrase S&P 500 floating around, background noise as you listen to the news. But if you are a person with even an inkling of interest in the stock market, you will know the S&P 500 is an index exhibiting stocks of the top 500 publicly owned companies primarily from the US.

The S&P 500 shows the market value of the 500 companies in the index and is a good indicator of how the stock market is doing as a whole. The index will rise if the market value of a company goes up (with an increase in individuals interested in purchasing shares), and the index will decrease if the market value of a company goes down.

Well, what does this have to do with water, you ask.

The S&P 500 actually has little to do with water itself, but Standard and Poor’s (the company that created the S&P 500) recently released an index of the top 50 companies in the global water sector called the S&P Global Water Index. The Global Water Index is similar to the S&P 500 except investors use it to track viability of investments in the international water sector. The Global Water Index is comprised of 25 companies in water utilities or infrastructure and 25 companies in water equipment or materials.


Photo courtesy Pixieslayer on flickr.

Events such as the subprime mortgage crisis in the US and rising oil prices have really challenged the future of investments. Water, necessary to life and in demand everywhere on the planet, is thought the next big thing among some economists.

“One man’s challenge is another man’s opportunity. With water shortages an enormous challenge in both the developed and developing world, companies that transmit, purify, or supply equipment should benefit.”

– Forbes, ‘Ways to Play Water

Should individuals with money benefit on global shortages of drinkable water?

Individuals are already investing in the global water sector, and this will influence sustainable and available water supplies into the future. Such investments could drive-up the cost of implementing water infrastructure or treatment facilities for developing countries with dwindling budgets. In addition, among the ten most profitable companies in the Global Water Index are SUEZ Inc. and Veolia Environnement SA. These privatized water suppliers, as well as others in the index, have poor records of providing affordable and dependable water supplies.

For more information on water privatization, see this post on Waterblogged.info or listen to this CBC radio series (a little past due but still great), Water for Profit.

Bottlemania: How Water Went on Sale and Why We Bought It

drinking water, outreach, sustainability, water privitization, water trade

A new book, Bottlemania by Elizabeth Royt, will focus on the complications of bottled water in today’s society. It will be available on May 13, 2008.

The book will address questions such as:

“Who owns our water? What happens when a bottled-water company stakes a claim on your town’s source? Should we have to pay for water? Is the stuff coming from the tap completely safe? And if so, how many chemicals are dumped in to make it potable? What’s the environmental footprint of making, transporting, and disposing of all those plastic bottles?”

For more information on bottled water, see the new Water Page on AlterNet. Tara Lohan, managing editor of AlterNet, has written several articles on the negative implications of bottled water in our world including This Year Give Up Bottle Water for Lent and What Would You Say to Coke’s Executives? (a review of ” a pioneering campaign that gives new meaning to message in a bottle“).

See the Water Books Page at the top of this web-log for more books on water.

Singapore’s International Water Week 2008

asia, economy, international, research, technology, water privitization, water trade

Singapore is hosting International Water Week from June 23rd to June 27th of 2008. This first-annual event is to be held as a forum for “government officials, industry leaders and water specialists” to discuss policy, business, and water technology. Festivities of the week encompass a Water Trade Show, a Water Summit, and presentation of the Lee Kuan Yew Water Prize to an innovator in the field of water technology.

In 2006, Singapore began wide-spread governmental investments in water technologies to accelerate economic growth in the water sector. No doubt hosting two-hundred exhibitors of water technologies will be great way for the country to stay abreast of additional investment opportunities.

However, several main sponsors of International Water Week include multinational corporations with questionable environmental and water management track records including:

Enterprising steps in the field of water technology are fundamental to ensure available water supplies now and into the future.

Does sponsorship of International Water Week by the above organizations make this event any less important? Not necessarily, but maybe it does mean that we should pay closer attention to these companies and their water management standards.

World Economic Forum 2008 Wraps Up with Water

agriculture, asia, climate change, drinking water, economy, industrial, international, technology, united nations, water trade

Water was a major topic of conversation at the World Economic Forum 2008 (WEF) now coming to a close in Davos, Switzerland.

At the forum, according to the Environmental News Service, Bill Gates announced a grant of $306 million dollars for development projects to help boost yields of crops for farmers in developing countries. It is unclear whether a portion of this money will be devoted to water conservation practices in conjunction with agriculture. Also discussed was implementation of a cap and trade system for water supplies and the importance of market forces in water allocation.

Leaders at the forum pledged renewed support for the UN’s Millennium Development Goals, of which one goal is to increase access to safe drinking water.

Created as a venue for dialogue, research, and networking among economic and political leaders, the WEF is often criticized for more talk rather than action, a membership majority of industrialized countries (primarily USA, Europe, and Asia), and limited media access to specified plenary sessions.

While members of the WEF did review the importance of water in the coming age, no definitive plan was drafted to move our global society in that direction. However, maybe discussions during the event will leave lasting impressions on these economic leaders. And gradually, they will come to the realization that water is more than a commodity, but a necessity of life.

Be sure to check out other blog posts on this issue… our friends at WaterWired give additional perspective on how water was incorporated into the WEF agenda.

Webcasts from this forum are available on the Podcasts, Video, and Web-Mediapage on this blog, as well as on the WEF website.

For an insiders look at the WEF 2008, check out this NPR story: The Wacky World Economic Forum.

Depleted Aquifers and the Mediterranean

climate change, drinking water, drought, groundwater, international, sustainability, water trade

The azure blue of the Mediterranean Sea makes it easy to forget the arid climate at the edge of this salty body of water. But look a bit inland. Countries in the region are experiencing increased shortages of water and lack of significant rainfall to remedy this problem in the near future.

Photo courtesy of LauraMary on flickr.

I reviewed the current plight of the island of Cyprus with uncertain water supplies and reservoirs at less than two months capacity previously on this blog. One may be inclined to make allowances for one island enduring shortages of water, but a whole region facing dropping aquifer levels is another story. And this is the story unfolding in the Mediterranean Basin.

Countries to the south of the Mediterranean Sea, such as Egypt and Libya, have historically faced water supply issues. Even to the east, Israel, Lebanon, and Palestine have been fighting over water for decades. But,if you follow the sea to the north, you will find water shortages also follow.

A recent article in The Christian Science Monitor details the desiccation of Lake Aksehir and surrounding aquifers located in Central Turkey’s Konya Plain region. It also reviews dropping aquifer levels in Italy. While Turkey plans a water diversion project from the Goksu River (in a similar fashion as the South-North Water Transfer Project), it begs the question “is this the best way to supplement dropping aquifer levels in the region?”

Water shortages in Turkey will most likely curtail water exports to Cyprus and Israel. Egypt and Lebanon may also follow suit as an arid Cyprus looks to these countries for water. Additionally, all countries in the region might begin to factor climate change into the equation, as precipitation begins to decrease annually during winter months. Hopefully, these issues and more will be addressed soon as Turkey hosts the 5th World Water Forum in Istanbul on March 15-22, 2009.

Cyprus and Water Imports from Greece, Egypt, and Lebanon

climate change, drinking water, drought, groundwater, international, water desalination, water trade

The small island country of Cyprus may soon be shipping water on tankers from Greece, Egypt and Lebanon to supplement current dwindling water supplies.

Cyprus has been facing drier than normal conditions for four consecutive years. Winter in Cyprus, November through March, usually serves to fill reservoirs for the coming season. But this winter has been practically rainless, and estimates leave reservoirs at two-months of capacity.

Cyprus typically provides water to citizens through several reservoirs and two water desalination plants. Because of the current water crisis, a third desalination plant is being constructed and emergency groundwater reserves may be rationed. Additionally, the country is contemplating the exorbitantly expensive shipment of additional water supplies.

Importing water, however, is nothing new to the country of Cyprus. As stated in this grotesquely entitled article, How to profit from the world’s water crisis, Cyprus had previously imported water from Turkey via large inflatable floating balloons holding up to five million gallons a piece. Obviously not the most efficient or cheap method for obtaining water, but neither is desalination (for now).

In the late 1990s, Aquarius Water Transportation became the first company to tow bags of fresh water for export, delivering commercial bulk quantities to the Greek Islands. In 2000, another company, Nordic Water Supply, began using 5 million gallon bags 10 times as big as the original Aquarius containers – to float water from Turkey to northern Cyprus.

– From an article in The Christian Science Monitor.

Cyprus

Update: (1/25/08)
Cyprus to extract water from underground reserves through bore holes.

Like Oil, Like Water

drinking water, water trade

Just this week, oil prices have reached a record high, exceeding $98.00 a barrel for crude oil on the world market.

But, how does this increase of the price of crude oil measure-up to the price of water on the global market?

A price comparison of water and crude oil is challenging because of the variability of water pricing around the globe. Water is primarily supplied in the following venues:

  • water sold in the commercial marketplace (bottled water)
  • water sold as a market commodity (privatized water)
  • municipalities (public) serve water to the general population, private entities, and public entities
  • water rights are sold and traded through water markets in various parts of the world (virtual water)

Of these four water services, the cost of bottled water has already surpassed the current cost of oil, while the prices of the others are rising steadily.

  •  Oil $2.33 per gallon (11/22/07)

There are 42 gallons in one barrel of crude oil. If we divide the recent price per barrel of oil by 42 gallons, this equates the price of oil at roughly $2.33 cents a gallon on the world market.

  • Bottled Water $16.00 per gallon (estimate)

Consumers often pay exorbitant prices in upwards of $2.00 for just over 16 ounces of bottled water. This would equal approximately $16.00 per gallon for so-called designer water, by a conservative estimate. Of course, prices will vary in the commercial water trade, but generally exceed the global price of oil.

  • Privatized WaterVaries

The cost of privatized water varies greatly depending on water availability, timing, and the cost of transport. Individuals in locations without access with municipal water often have to purchase water from private vendors in large quantities.

Municipal water falls behind world oil prices, primarily because of subsidization of these water water supplies ranging from .66 in the US to $2.50 in Denmark for a cubic meter of water as indicated in a recent study of 14 countries (Earth Policy Institute). There are approximately 264 gallons in one cubic meter of water, so this would amount to approximately ¼ cent to one cent per gallon of water.

  • Water Marketsup to ¼ cent per gallon

In this description by the Earth Policy Institute, water traded in “water markets” has been known exchange for a high of .75 cents a cubic meter in Australia. This equates to approximately ¼ cent per gallon of water. Obviously, well below the current price per gallon of oil.


Photo courtesy, Fábio Pinheiro on flickr.

Although most water prices (besides bottled water) have not yet exceeded world oil prices, according to many, it is thought to be imminent. And, many more tout the promise of water investments. This recent article highlights Norway’s 5-fold increase in bottled water exports over the past seven years and states:

A study on global water import and export trade by the Political Economy Research Center of the Hoover Institution said water has shifted from being a political commodity to a market commodity, by providing innovative solutions to water shortages in different parts of the world. The study said while the water business may not fetch profits as high as oil trading does, more water crises will boost the business in the coming years.

Israel’s Stance and Expanding Water-Technology Markets

international, technology, water trade

If you pay attention to international water issues, you will soon realize the small country of Israel is slowly attempting to make a name for itself in the field of water technology. In fact, Israel recently hosted an international water technology conference, WATEC, from October 30 to November 1 of 2007.

Israel, though lacking in natural water resources, is exporting its water technology across the globe, billing itself as the “Silicon Valley of water technology,” in the words of Infrastructures Minister Binyamin Ben Eliezer.

Israel hopes to increase export revenues from water technologies to 2 billion US dollars by 2010. The Israeli government has just launched a program to maximize technical knowledge of desalination, water purification, irrigation systems, water treatment, reclaimed water, water security, and water infrastructure.

Given the increase in global water scarcity, Israel is one of many entities ready to step into an open-economic playing field to double their dollar in the field of water technologies.

This report, Growing Markets for Water and Wastewater Technologies, issued by BCC Research, likely explains markets available for growth in the water technology sector, but specifics of the report are not known because I could not afford to pay the $4850.00 to purchase a copy (yes, the water technology industry must be growing…). However, one of the report highlights states:

The expenditures for municipal water and wastewater applications were $8,066 million in 2005, $9,575 million in 2006, and $11,290 million in 2007. They are expected to grow at compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 22.2% and reach $39,709 million by 2012.

We can apply the economic model of supply and demand very clearly to the water scenario. As demand for water increases, the price of water (water technologies, etc.) on the world market will also increase. Consequently, there will be an accrual of entities hoping to profit on the commodity of water, alas we are seeing such happening presently.

Author’s Postscript: This post highlights global water technology markets and Israel’s current standing in such world markets. However, there are many critical water issues relating to Israels continued occupation of Palestinian territories in areas of the region with greater access to water.

Additionally, Israel maintains water technology, yet continuously fails to supply Palestinians with assistance for development of water infrastructure or access to reliable water supplies.  In the near future, I will attempt to address these issues.

Thailand, Agriculture, and Water Cap and Trade

agriculture, asia, water trade

The people of Thailand are gearing up for general elections for prime minister on December 23, 2007. This is an exciting occurrence, as political activities were outlawed in Thailand after a major coup d’etat on September 19, 2006.

While preparations for the elections occur, discussions abound regarding the future of the economy in Thailand. As stated on the Bangkok Post Daily, it cannot be ignored that the agricultural sector in Thailand currently supports a large part of the economy. Thailand exports a large percentage of their agricultural products to the global market. But, the author of this article states,

There may be a time when Thailand must keep its agricultural produce within the country for food security, especially to offset drought. If at some time in the future Thailand cannot feed its own people and must depend on food imports, it will have to fork over a hard-earned foreign exchange advantage to buy ever more expensive food, and there may be little money left for development. Therefore, said Nongnuch, Thailand should never abandon its determination to maintain food security, and always produce at least enough to feed its population.

Firstly, I must exclaim, I do not see how maintaining food supplies within one’s country would offset drought. But, this issue does bring up conversation concerning globalization, food supply, and water availability.

With increasing recognition of water shortages in agricultural sectors throughout the world, it has been suggested that a re-organization of food production could be a viable option to reduce stress on water supplies. For example, growing less water-intensive crops in arid locations, while growing water-intensive crops in areas with high precipitation. This kind of global re-organization of the food market would require extensive participation by political entities throughout the world to ensure trade of needed foods sources be conducted equitably.

However, current global trade is not conducted in a fair manner because large entities often have an unfair advantage over small entities, especially with the implementation of such trade polices like NAFTA and CAFTA, etc. That leads one to think that implementation of some manner of water cap and trade system could assist in a global reorganization of the agricultural sector.

In summary, if this new system of agriculture could be maintained, it has the possibility to provide sustainable agricultural commodities while lessening our dependence on water supplies. But, the likelihood of the imminent occurrence of this type of paradigm shift is nil to none.

Globalization is happening, we might as well use it for good.

-as succinctly stated by my close friend.

Water Commodity and Global Market Trading

economy, water trade

Global market trades of water supplies seem a relative certainty as human populations grow, agricultural practices increase, and precipitation and snow-melt become more unpredictable. Investors are lining up to stake their claims. A recent article on the Times Online UK edition explains the likely scenario in an article entitled: Water whets the appetite of commodity traders with an eye to the next fortune.

The exact way water would fit into global market is still a bit ambiguous. It could be comparable to current markets in Australia or even micro-markets in the US where water rights are sold and/or traded simultaneously. A parallel is even drawn to current Carbon Markets – Emissions Trading. One thing is for sure, there are many individuals that would like to make a profit on the liquid of life – water.

Short Film on Water Privitization

drinking water, economy, groundwater, water availability, water privitization, water trade, water treatment

This film, produced by the World Development Movement (WDM), gives a brief overview of the water privatization throughout the world. It is called “Dirty Aid – Dirty Water” because as entities like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund provided loans to developing countries, often times they did so with the stipulation that the country receiving the funding must agree to participate in a water-privatization program. Privatization of water supplies in these countries has seen many ill effects including significant increases in water prices making water less available those in need.