Many inhabitants of poor countries such as Niger struggle to access clean water. Will trading in this vital resource help people like this? The jury's out. Photo: Matilde Gattoni
Water trading: how the world's most vital resource is up for sale
21st September, 2011
Like carbon trading, REDD and food speculation before it, the buying and selling of water is just the latest example of market principles being applied to natural resources. But just how ethical is it? Debika Ray reports
It was a sign of the times that the villain in the last Bond movie was not chasing diamonds or gold, but water. In the 2008 blockbuster Quantum of Solace, billionaire businessman Dominic Greene aimed to seize control of Bolivia’s water supply, and then instate his firm as the country’s sole supplier of freshwater. The plot — allegedly inspired by the 2000 protests against water privatisation in the city of Cochabamba — may have been implausible, but there was no refuting its central premise: water has become one of the world’s most precious substances.
'We believe water is turning into the new gold,' said Ziad Abdelnour, president of US private equity firm Blackhawk Partners, to Reuters last month. Indeed, a combination of climate change and a rising population is making the liquid increasingly unattainable – and, therefore, valuable. The total volume of water on earth is about 1.4bn km3, of which only 0.01 per cent is usable freshwater. Water use, meanwhile, has been increasing at more than twice the rate of population growth over the past century. By 2025, 1.8bn people will be living in regions of scarcity.
It is no surprise, then, that the impending water crisis...
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