The problem is not a lack of water per se. Climate change may make some places drier and others wetter. It is the uneven distribution of freshwater—of which fast-growing places like India are woefully short—that provide the conditions for a crisis. This is made worse by waste, pollution and the near-universal underpricing of water. Some governments, notably China’s, have created pharaonic projects to transport water to where it is needed. Others, such as Mr López Obrador’s, peddle the quixotic idea of moving demand to where the water is. The best outcome in the long term, on paper at least, is the simplest: that less of the stuff is used, and more of what is used is treated better. It is something the private sector is just starting to grapple with.
Industries directly affected by water shortages have got a head start. Global mining firms are using desalination plants in Chile. Beer and soft-drinks companies, existentially reliant on clean water, have targets for improving efficiency (Heineken says it uses 2.5 litres of water to make a litre of beer in Mexico, about half the global industry average). In collaboration with the wri, Cargill, an agro-industrial behemoth, recently extended the monitoring of water use from its own operations to the farmers who supply its crops. Fashion retailers, whose suppliers are often heavy users of water and dyes in dry areas, are considering similar moves, to avoid angry flare-ups by local residents who worry about being second in line to the taps.
This calls for careful stewardship.
As a heavily subsidised raw material, water is so cheap that many ceos overlook it. A report this year by Planet Tracker and cdp, two ngos, said that about a third of listed banks do not assess water risks in their portfolios. https://t.co/9wIpsGUZVJ
— Guillaume LOURIAIS (@glouriais) August 18, 2022