Green Flash Newsletter
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       “Is water the next oil?” That’s the question being asked by academics, policy makers, planet-aware people, and the new documentary, Flow. The consensus answer is, “Yes.”

       Everyone’s facts are slightly different, but they boil down to the following. Only 3% of the earth’s water is non-salty. That supply is very unevenly distributed, its purity varies widely, and demand is increasing rapidly. Currently 1.1 billion people lack clean drinking water. By 2025 it’s projected that 50% of the population will live in “water stressed” areas.

       Gobally, governments are diving into the tricky question of how best to allocate limited water between competing demands. On one hand, water is viewed as a basic human right that should be available to all at essentially no cost via public entities. On the other hand, a market-based system could arguably lead to more careful water use and more investment in conservation and cleaning technologies by businesses and agriculture, which consume roughly 20% and 70% of our supply respectively.

       Businesses are slowly dipping their toe into this issue. While 40% of the Fortune 500 believes a water shortage would be “severe to catastrophic,” only 17% are preparing for one. Cutting edge companies are starting to talk about “water foot prints” (yup, think carbon footprints for water), “virtual water” (the amount of water used to produce a product), and being “water neutral.” And, of course, venture capitalists are eagerly looking for ways to turn “blue gold” into their preferred “yellow gold.”

We should think about...
  • How would your business fare in a water crisis? It’s virtually inevitable.
  • Is it time to create a water strategy for your organization?
  • How can we better monitor our personal water usage?
Sources: Harvard Working Knowledge 2007; Knowledge@Wharton 2008;
Technology Review 2008; YaleGlobal 2007
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