Media Articles

We will date and present all new media articles either about what we are doing or that are directly applicable to our interests.
 
 As a drought unfolds slowly and devastatingly, California farmers feel desperate and abandoned
By Holly Bailey,
August 5, 2014 5:00 AM
Yahoo News
 
 
 
 
11/20/10    Alaska Public Radio interview covering a broad range of issues dealing with the place Alaska may play in the new global water market and solving the globes freshwater crisis:  broadcast date unknown at this time.
 
Guest Editorials:

The Global Freshwater Crisis

 Op Ed piece #1 

 

Many claim we don't have enough freshwater.  For the most part they are talking locally.  But as most of use in the global water business know, this is a not just a local/city, regional/ river basin, or national issue.   It is a global challenge.  But, in addressing this challenge, should we be thinking globally, regionally, or just by drainage?   Or should we be thinking about something else altogether?

 

Some, including the United Nations, predict the tipping point, when more then half the people on earth do not have adequate freshwater, to be 2025.  With respect, I disagree.  I believe it is much closer to between 2015 and 2020.  Yes, as early as five years from now.

 

So, “Is there adequate freshwater to sustain life including man, fish, wildlife and their environments; including vibrant economies – the human environment? 

 

In fact, I argue that the tipping point is in part closer specifically because economies are much more fragile then life when it comes to adequate freshwater.  And that without vibrant economies- not only is life as we know it is not sustainable - peace becomes very fragile.

 

Water globalists know that there is more than enough freshwater on the planet to meet our collective needs and that we can responsibly make more.  That’s a fact.

 

But, people and economies choose to live in the temperate zones and that is not where the majority of our natural freshwater is.  We must move the water, move the people and their economies, or create what I refer to as "new water" or maybe we need to address other issues.

 

Historically we have almost always chosen to move the water - it’s less disruptive of humans and their economies and folks love warm weather - but this choice has come at a cost.  Not just ecologically but also economically - and not just in direct cost but also in the creation of false economies that are, in the long term, not sustainable.  Just ask responsible water thinkers in the fifth largest economy in the world, southern California.

 

And globally we are contaminating water faster then we can recover or clean it.  Not just by direct use but also by over exploitation of limited groundwater causing saltwater intrusion - and in some cases causing inland aquifer collapse.  As a result, essentially all of the coastal aquifers in China, India, and most island countries are now contaminated with saltwater.  Again, pushing the tipping point much closer to 2015.

 

According to a 1993 report, a number of critical U.S. aquifers are being contaminated by salt or brackish water or have collapsed.  In over a dozen areas of California, Arizona, Nevada, Texas, and Idaho (over 5,600 square miles) the earth’s surface has dropped by 9 to 12 ft as then 9 aquifers had been drained and collapsed.  That report is now almost 20 years old.  The damage is certainly far greater today.

 

We have the skills and technologies to create new freshwater, either by desalting, conservation/demand management, recycling, bulk conveyance, or instream trades.  But cost against price, along with political ignorance or cowardice, is the concern.

 

So, what is the problem?   As long as water is free or as some claim a human right - most politicos nor their constituents will have the strength to accept the reality that, like any limited resource - water is a commodity – limited and of growing value.   As my friend David Zetland, PhD water economist says, “The price for most products combines value to consumers with the cost of production and delivery.  Since the price of water only reflects the cost of delivery — the water itself is free — we don’t pay a price that reflects its value or scarcity.”  So true, and that is the problem.

 

Asit Biswas is another water globalist who understands the market value to water.  At 70 years young he runs one of the most forward thinking market based water think tanks in the world from of all places Mexico City.  He has faced this “value” conflict with guns in his face when working for the Phnom Penh Water Authority in Cambodia.  One of his most famous statements is, “The problem is not scarcity, but mismanagement.”   Sound familiar?  So much said in so few words.  “Water must have a price.  Anything that is fee won’t be used prudently,” he has also said.

 

Biswas claims that global demand will increase by 40% in 20 years, but in the most rapidly developing countries/economies it will increase by better than 50%, and this will accelerate.  That is if it remains free.  It’s time to change this paradigm.

 

We know water has been a traded commodity for most of man's history.  To deny this is to reject known history.  Visiting any of the old civilizations especially in Europe and Asia teaches you this - if you are alert to the evidence, be it Roman pipes and bath houses, or Chinese or Japanese systems that are ageless.

 

Here we have a natural resource, in some markets limited in its supply in relation to the location of man and his economies - critical to lives and economies - that most refuse to value or price even based on “actual cost”. 

 

When water is free and its harvest, conveyance, and treatment are enormously subsidized creating false economies, we do not treat water with respect - as having its own economic value - and therefore it is, at best, not efficiently used and at worst - wasted.  In most of the world, water is not responsibly valued, priced, and allocated.

 

This is the underlying problem.  The belief that water must be free, not polluted by “greed” or commerce.  This is the barrier in solving our freshwater crisis here in America and certainly across the planet.

 

Water is by definition a life and economy sustaining commodity i.e. it has, by definition, not only substantive but quantifiable economic value.  This is reality.  Those who deny or refuse to accept this truth - are the problem that delays the obvious and accelerates the globe towards precipitous regional and possible global conflict.  This is not speculation if you have studied the history of water and human conflict - it is a given.

 

It is no longer even a real question.  Water is a commodity and the most efficient means for allocating any limited commodity is through open markets.  This is a fact; a fact proven in actual terms in countries like Chile.

 

We must get away from political notions of "fairness" and old but now convenient beliefs of water's other worldly value.  Like food or land, water is a commodity - like it or not and we need to start paying the actual cost of the various kinds of water we use along with the cost of its harvest, storage, conveyance, and treatment.

 

As my new friend water economist David Zetland, PhD says, “The water mismanagement we have is the water mismanagement we created.  Nature makes a drought, Man makes a shortage.”  We really need to start over and create a system that recognizes the value of water as a legitimate commodity.  With markets, we can allocate what we have and meet the real needs of users in almost all areas of the world.

 

So, do we have sufficient freshwater to meet the needs of the world’s people and their economies?  Again, the answer is yes, but first we must treat water with respect and as a valuable economically critical commodity.  This is the only way we can solve this challenge before the tipping point.  Can it be done?  Yes, we have the technologies,  we understand the management issues, we have the water.  It is the lack of appropriate management, and measurable “value” currently not being assigned by politicos and water managers who refuse to accept real costs in real markets that inhibit real solutions.

 

 

Ric Davidge

Chairman

AQUEOUS International, Inc.

www.aqueoususa.com