Has water become priceless?

Drought to undermine hydro power in favour of wind and solar and also lead to a revolution in organic waste treatment.

Rain, rain, go away and come again on Mammy’s washing… A favourite childhood rhyme of mine that I hummed on many a teeming wet day in Dublin. Little did I know back then just how precious a resource that rainwater was nor how in many places it was not as abundant as in soaking Ireland.

A number of recent events and meetings have focused my thinking as to how our planet’s changing climate will impact existing business models within the economy (both green and brown) if our need for fresh water and the use of fresh water become unsustainable in relation to fresh water availability. This scenario is not as far away as you may think according to a recent UN report “By 2030, the world is projected to face a 40% global water deficit under the business-as usual (BAU) scenario (2030 WRG, 2009)”

 

Drought drives energy generation rethink

I recently met with an energy expert from Brazil who shared with me the impact that two years of drought have had on the country’s hydro power resources resulting in power cuts and a return to natural gas generated energy resulting in energy price increases of 30%1. As a result, many in Brazil are now questioning whether the country can continue to rely on Hydro power which currently accounts for ~70%1 of the country’s energy production. According to the expert, there has subsequently been an increased search for and focus on alternative green energies that can reduce the dependence on Hydro power.

But thinking about this more broadly, will other countries such as China and the USA who have invested heavily in hydro power (or those who generate a large percentage of their energy needs from hydro) and have experienced drought, need to completely overhaul their energy strategies?  What will this mean for solar and wind – will this open up new opportunities to replace hydro? Will those considering investing in hydro power in the future need to reconsider, or at the very least re-evaluate the assumptions underpinning their investment models?

 

California drought leads to irrigation reduction

I then read this article in the Guardian covering the voluntary decision by farmers in California to voluntarily cut their water usage by up to 25% to avoid mandatory restrictions following 4 years of drought.  With agriculture consuming ~80% of the state’s water the deal was considered historic.  But who would have thought (clearly many scientist and environmentalists may have) 20 years ago that climate change would lead to such drastic measures in the largest state in the supposed home of the free world?

With this article reinforcing how scarce water is in regions such as California, it reinforced the potential for the technology of a company that I recently met which turns organic waste into energy and grey water which can be used for fertilizer.

The question I now have is, will it actually be the need for water that will be the tipping point for such technologies, as opposed to the need for either clean energy or an economic waste treatment solution. Has water now become priceless?

1: http://oilprice.com/Energy/Natural-Gas/Drought-Forcing-Brazil-To-Turn-To-Gas.html