16 April 2010

Questions for a Polish reporter

Q: I have the impression that problems with water have been underestimated for a long time – by politicians, business and public opinion. What are the reasons for this situation?

A: There was a lot of water (quantity and quality) since the beginning of time. Now there are more people using more water (demand) and less water (pollution and climate change), so there are shortages. (I am writing a book on this, The End of Abundance...)

Q: Some people often say that water will be the next oil. Is it the right comparison, in what sense? Who will probably benefit the most from the water trading in the future?


A: No, it's not true in the sense that oil is MUCH more valuable, shipped worldwide, of fixed (NOT renewable) supply, and with substitutes. OTOH, water IS like oil b/c it's controlled by governments, so there are similar political issues. Fortunately, those issues are often LOCAL (not global), so solutions are easier.

The beneficiaries of water trading will be sellers (farmers) and buyers (poor people). The losers will be politicians who lose control over this valuable asset.

Do you readers have more to say on this?

1 comment:

J. David Foster said...

The water and oil analogy is a common but often over used analogy but there are some useful parallels: 1) In most cases the least expensive "source" of energy is conservation and this is generally true of water as well. In India, for example, where people complain of being desparately short of water, most cities waste over 50% during distribution. In addition, less than 1% of the crops are watered using drip irrigation, despite the fact that this is a proven technology and widely used on nearly 90% of the crops in Israel. 2) Territorial conflicts over water (as well as oil) are increasingly common. 3) Kickbacks and corruption in both water and oil projects are extremely common.