Although Egypt’s water war seems to be mostly talk, the fact remains that the global water supply is dwindling at an alarming rate. The United Nations makes this abundantly clear, predicting that 47 percent of the Earth’s population will inhabit places “with high water stress” by 2030.
Peter Brabeck — chairman and former CEO of Nestle — has proposed a controversial explanation:
“Where I have an issue is that the 98.5% of the water we are using… is not a human right and because we treat it as one, we are using it in an irresponsible manner, although it is the most precious resource we have. Why? Because we don’t want to give any value to this water. And we know very well that if something doesn’t have a value, it’s human behaviour [sic] that we use it in an irresponsible manner.”
His solution? Privatize the earth’s water supply.
At first glance, the issue could be taken as an affront to civil liberties by a large food company operating in order to make a buck. Indeed, the company has been alleged to thrive on the scarcity of other nations — most famously Pakistan.
Regardless of corporate tendencies, it does make sense to give water — the most precious resource and the most vital to life — a value. Stewardship of a natural resource is no new concept. The scope of this particular endeavor, however, is unprecedented.
The Water Resources Group (WRG), of which Brabeck himself is an integral part of, is currently undertaking measures to provide clean water in water-scarce places, such as Jordan and South Africa. Ethiopia is queued to participate as well. The WRG implements three types of water filtration technology: groundwater desalination, sea water desalination, and Coal Bed Methane CBM treatment.
This service doesn’t come cheap. Investments in water and water treatment plants around the globe are shaky and uncertain, as the technological scale needed to implement this daunting task of global privatization requires immense capitol. It currently lacks sufficient investors, both private and public.
The question is then raised: financially speaking, are we willing to plant a seed whose fruit we may never taste? This controversial yet pragmatic approach to global water supply issues can be successful if implemented with full transparency and universal understanding.
Other innovative breakthroughs in water have surfaced, most notably SteriPEN, a portable filtration “straw” that utilizes ultraviolet light to kill bacteria and other harmful particles. Advances such as these can bring additional mobilization to investors who are still on the fence about bigger projects.