Scarcity alone doesn’t seem to be the reason. Poverty, inequalities in income and power contribute primarily for this fear. But the moot point is what is the context and perspective to this looming likely scenario? Whether water will become the new oil depends upon who is asking this question and what’s the premise? Trade warriors see this as a future commodity and therefore will create market conditions to do so.
Environment campaigners see this as mismanagement and abuse. And finally people who see this as potential for conflict arising out of diminishing supplies or scarcity.
We have enough examples at home wherein states are engaged in constant bickering over share of river water supplies.
However for the moment lets go by some of the startling facts as shared by the UNICEF website purely highlighting the water scarcity:
Four billion people – almost two thirds of the world’s population – experience severe water scarcity for at least one month each year.
Over two billion people live in countries where water supply is inadequate.
Half of the world’s population could be living in areas facing water scarcity by as early as 2025.
Some 700 million people could be displaced by intense water scarcity by 2030.
By 2040, roughly 1 in 4 children worldwide will be living in areas of extremely high water stress.
Scenarios like the above and many others to which we aren’t exposed to as yet could only lead to Water making its nebulous way to being the “next oil”. Of course Mankind can and have been making scientific advances to find out greener alternatives to oil and in a sense that one can still live without oil but to imagine a day without water is hard to fathom. Its therefore imperative that we learn our lessons from the history of oil and its rampant misuse leading to rampant exploitation leading to skyrocketing of oil prices and ensure that we look at conservation, rejuvenation , and recycling of water both at industrial and domestic level.
The kind of impact a limo has on oil consumption is akin to what our jacuzzi does to water. A 2018 UN report states that the growth of the world population increases by approximately 83 million every year wherein the current world population is expected to cross 9 billion by 2030 and 11.2 billion by 2100. Imagine the kind of pressure that it will have on fresh water scarcity next only to climate change.
Freshwater biodiversity is a valuable resource for ensuring the consistent wellbeing of humans and other species. It supplies safe drinking water, nutritious food, and employment, and is calculated to be worth more than $4 trillion every year. Its rather unfortunate that we humans consider every element on this planet as a primary resource meant only for us .
However there does exist solutions which needs a major global political will that includes encouraging the conservation of clean water, restoring freshwater ecosystems, and prioritising the addressing of the problem of freshwater habitat loss.
Let’s hope that in our times we are not faced with a disastrous situation wherein our water wells dry out much before the oil wells.
(Ganesh Iyer, India’s 1st Water Sommelier and Managing Partner Zero Percent India Pvt Ltd.)