Climate change will be felt through water
Climate change will be felt through water as it alters the quality, amount, distribution and timing of available water. By 2025, one in every two people on the planet will live with water stress. For one in nine, the problem is already here.
All our existing water problems will be significantly exacerbated by climate change which is already having a measurable effect on the water cycle. Ecosystems, industries and communities will be affected as the global water crisis intensifies.
In an attempt to better understand how the global water sector was evolving to meet the global water challenge, I produced and recently published the Investing in Water: Infrastructure + Technology report. Over the course of 7 interviews I spoke with experts about the water infrastructure investment gap, the cost of the global water challenge, and we discussed how new technologies are changing the way in which water is being managed and used.
The small investing he still does is all focussed on one commodity: water
In 2017, I wrote a blog called The Business of Water, inspired by the end credits of the movie The Big Short.
The semantics inferred a very bleak, unbalanced view of the future and in order to better understand that future I decided to produce a report that explored how Dr Michael Burry was investing in water.
That report was going to be called Investing in Water Rich Farmland. Five research calls in my focus shifted from almond farms, high net worth investors and the secretive world of family offices to the kind of water investing that might serve a greater purpose and benefit everyone.
The primary objective of the report was to understand how the private and public sectors are working together to mobilise investments in water infrastructure and technology. We also tried to anticipate how enlarging the investable areas within the water sector might impact access to water for all.
As it stands water infrastructure investments remain mostly publicly funded and there is a critical need for investment in least developed countries. Moving forward, we can look forward to increased climatic variability (i.e. larger variations in flow) in many of the shared rivers and groundwater systems and although we are making progress in monitoring the world’s water resources, there is currently no method for gleaning real time global, comprehensive data about the state of water across geographies worldwide.
Some of the interviews touched on the value of water pricing - a strategy that some readers might consider to be politically and ethically isolating but some experts view as being a pragmatic and obvious way forward.
The UN has proclaimed access to water a human right, declared and defined, in 2010 but given the recent expansion of the water market, the report tries to discern how water can be treated as a human right and a commodity at the same time. Water is now touted as the great investment opportunity, but the market is still relatively new and it’s hard to determine exactly who it will serve, how big it will get and at whose expense. It could be argued that by treating water as a commodity we are accentuating the already unequal nature of water and the very unequal way in which it will impact vulnerable communities, already living with water stress.
When I first started researching this report, I felt like I was studying an elaborate jigsaw puzzle. You have hundreds of puzzle pieces in front of you and you can see how a few pieces might fit together but the final picture still eludes me. We can’t predict the extent to which the water cycle will be affected by climate change in the next 10 years but as it stands, the world is not on track to reach the Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG 6) on Water and Sanitation by the deadline set for 2030.