Water as the Next Oil?

The seemingly tasteless and largely odourless water surrounds our lives in a very real way – from being the major constituent of our bodies to being the dominant compound that makes up the majority of the earth’s surface. Why is it that in spite of its ubiquitous presence, the scarcity of water resources poses a threat to the future of this planet? The answer, quite simply put, is that this is one resource without which it becomes impossible to stay alive, even for a couple of days.

Even a couple of decades ago, not many back in the day would have anticipated that water would be a commodity that could ever be purchased as an over- the- counter product. The Western world is a prime example of a culture that has quickly become accustomed to using bottled water, a phenomenon which has not picked up as promptly in the developing world, but is unquestionably in the process of gaining popularity, most commonly is urban regions.

Water is also very closely related to the growth of any economy as well, since both the agricultural and industrial sectors use water as an essential processing and raw material, without necessarily taking adequate care for its proper disposal.

Just like with conventional energy sources, water resources are also not evenly distributed at the international scale as well as within a country. Clearly, even the so called ‘developed world’ is not free from vulnerabilities in water availability, as Spain started importing tankers of water from neighbouring regions in Europe. Several municipalities in Spain were even considering turning off local fountains and beachside showers, and well as fix leaks to prevent losses.

“Turning on the Tap: Is Water the Next Oil,” an excerpt from the September 2005 Harvard Business School Alumni Bulletin, discussed how water affects nations’ ability to compete. The article also mentioned that the demand for water is expected to double worldwide by 2025, most notably due to the rapid growth in population.

One of the first steps in resolving the crisis is to understand the severe need that water plays in each of our lives and subsequently analyzing which of these needs are imperative for us and should be continued. Outside of personal consumption, the process of water treatment is vital in reusing and industrial and domestic water supply, keeping in mind the sanitation and health effects due to inefficiencies in these processes. From simple economics, we need to define the line between the ‘needs’ served by water and the ‘luxuries’ provided to us.

Entrepreneurs and businesses around the world are finally beginning to realize the precious nature of this commodity, and there are increasing efforts in all parts of the world, both by the private sector as well as non-governmental and intergovernmental organizations, to establish protocol to ensure more efficient use of water resources. After all, are we not preoccupied enough with the oil catastrophe already?

Abhay Agarwal

[Image source:http://www.arxmancars.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/05/use-water-as-a-fuel-for-your-vehicle.jpg