In short, water has economic, environmental, social and cultural dimensions. Unlike carbon, water is not fungible; a liter of water in the U.S. is not the same as a liter elsewhere. The quality of the water, the timing of the withdrawal, etc., all matter. While access to water and sanitation are global issues, solutions are local and stakeholders within a watershed care about how businesses use water.
While it is also tempting to include water technologies under the clean-tech tagline, it is not helpful to do so, either. The water industry and issues associated with commercializing water technologies are different than the bundle of technologies under the clean-tech umbrella (more on this in a later column).
Finally, we often refer to the concept of water scarcity. We should be clear that water is globally abundant but finite. Within a watershed and region, demand can often exceed supply, or there is a drought and in these cases water is "scarce." The bottom line: Water is globally abundant but it can be locally "scarce."
Water is old business and the issues in some ways haven't changed. What has changed is that water management has moved to water stewardship and the true value of water is now being better understood.
I suggest a couple of reports to frame the business issues and value of water. These reports explain why water is a business issue and get the conversation going on the specific risk, opportunities, strategies, public policies and technology developments:
• 2012 CDP Water Disclosure reports (Global 500 and S&P500)
• U.S. Environmental Protection Agency report on the importance of water to the U.S. economy
I am looking forward to the monthly conversation.
Leaking pipe image by BEEE via Shutterstock