Security of supply of food and energy is definitely the topic of our time. But even more important will be the security of the supply of water.
The United Nations estimates that the available water that is safe for drinking per capita will be one third less than today in 20 years.
This scarcity derives from a couple of reasons. Firstly, the world population rises and will need more water. This growth in population in addition to poor sanitary facilities results in bacteriological and industrial pollution. On the other hand more and more people who have reached a new level of wealth will demand for cleaner and unpolluted water. Unfortunately, a lot of water is lost by inefficient and overage infrastructure. Finally, global warming contributes to the drying-up of many parts of the earth and long-standing droughts will threaten many people in many countries. And this will affect both industrialized and third-world countries. Obviously, Africa is the candidate for severe water scarcity – the African Water Association reports that one third of the African population has no drinking water, but even some parts of the United States and Europe will face severe problems. Las Vegas is tapping the Colorado River in an amount that Las Vegas is at risk to run out off water in the future. Spain might suffer from droughts and possibly it will be host to the first desert in Europe. The Southeast of Spain is one of the driest regions in Europe. However, Spain has one of the lowest prices of water in Europe – in Germany the price is twice as high as in Spain, though Germany has plenty of water. Nevertheless, Spain’s tourism industry and agriculture exploit the scarce water for hundreds of golf courses and huge plantations with fruits for export. And saving water is no issue they bother, because the low price makes it affordable to waste large amounts of water in leaky water conduits.
The part of the world which will suffer most is Asia. Especially China has significant problems. It is estimated that more than 90% of China’s water resources – be it lakes, rivers or reservoirs – are not suitable for drinking. This adds to China’s problem that it has about 21% of the Earth’s population but only 7% of its water supplies. This could turn out to harm China’s GDP growth and will require attention from the government to avoid chaotic circumstances in the case of a massive drought.
Some investors jump at the chance and invest in companies which are involved in the cleaning of water.
Experts of Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute warn that the competition for water is likely to turn out to be a significant crisis of the 21st century. As a consequence, water should be used as efficiently as possible and the natural water resources should be preserved.