The scarcity and management of natural resources’ products previous generations casually took for granted are of increasing concern in local communities, countries and across borders.
Growing concerns about water resources and management is perhaps the most important and fundamental case in point. And, just as has happened with renewable energy, it’s setting off a blitz of private investment in companies that own and manage water resources, as well as clean tech companies in the wastewater processing and treatment end of the business.
Just the other week I received some unsolicited e-mail touting the OTC Bulletin Board, penny stock, shares of Bioshaft Water Technologies, developers and owners of “a miraculous system that’s poised to revolutionize the $1.3 trillion domestic sewage treatment market.”
Debate concerning and competition for water resources, whether between commercial and industrial organizations, governments or local communities, has been fierce and protracted – just look at the history of water and the American West. And it’s getting even fiercer with population growth, real estate development and the effects of climate change.
The ensuing conflicts are bringing associated and fundamental socio-economic and ethical issues – such as public vs. private good, common versus and private ownership of resources – into even sharper relief as the wide variety of stakeholders and vested interests come into conflict over how best to conserve, develop and manage them.
From Fashion to Necessity
Multinational corporations, logistics and brands like Perrier and Evian heralded the onset of a globalization process that turns what were once local “luxury” products into ubiquitous consumer items for the global mass market. At the same time, billions of people in developing countries – some 40% of the world’s population – lack access to basic sanitation and access to safe, sustainable drinking water, according to the U.N.’s Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council.
Some sixty percent of the 1.1 billion lacking reliable access to clean water reside in Asia, posing particularly acute problems for rapidly industrializing China and India, according to a recently released report from JP Morgan Chase. Increasing water pollution in developing countries is seriously exacerbating the problem and is only upping the costs that are bound to be imposed by governments and regulators if they are to safeguard and meet their countries water quality and usage needs.
Moreover, decision makers in both the public and private sector around the world are not as well equipped as they need to be to make informed decisions. Better disclosure of water supply risks is needed across a number of industries, reported Cleantech.com in an interview with JP Morgan Chase analyst Marc Levinson, the report’s author.
“In our opinion, corporate disclosure of water-related risks is seriously inadequate and is typically included in environmental statements prepared for public relations purposes rather than in the regulatory filings on which most investors rely,” Levinson wrote.
Increasing Costs, Disclosure on the Horizon
Today companies, such as Nestle, are buying up springs and water resources in rural communities in the US and around the world, during which they typically run up against varying amounts of debate and conflict with residents, communities and government, as detailed in a recent High Country News article.
The UN Human Rights Council on March 28 adopted a resolution put forth by Germany and Spain along with over 40 co-sponsors, on ‚ÄòHuman Rights and access to safe drinking water and sanitation.’ As a result, the UNHRC will appoint an Independent Expert who, for a three-year term, will focus on two primary tasks: identifying, promoting and exchanging ideas on best practices as they relate to safe access to safe drinking water and sanitation and clarifying related human rights obligations.
The US is by no means exempt from mounting water resource management and conservation problems and issues. As noted by Market Movers, “all across America city planners are desperately trying to figure out what to do about the $1 trillion funding shortfall for replacing, upgrading, and enlarging outdated, aging, and even failing water infrastructure.”
Besides presenting economic and investment opportunities, the shortfall has to figure as one of, if not the most fundamental and pressing problems and challenges facing governments and people in the US, communities and countries around the world.
The day is fast approaching when companies, particularly water-intensive businesses, will be required to fully account for and disclose their water supply usage and practices, according to Levinson’s report. “We anticipate that companies will come under increasing pressure to provide detailed disclosure of water-related risks to investors, including potential changes in supply or treatment costs, regulations, and costs arising from supply-chain disruptions,” Levinson stated.