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Acqua for life

Should water be your next share purchase? Acqua for Life

Michael Burry is a market analyst and heads up Scoin Asset Management. If you’ve watched The Big Short the name might ring a bell. Burry was portrayed by Christian Bale and was the gent a few steps ahead of the 2008 financial crisis. Incidentally, at the end of the movie there is a mention that Burry now invests most of his money in water.

It’s an interesting move considering:

  • With expected increases in population, by 2030, food demand is predicted to increase by 50% (70% by 2050) (Bruinsma, 2009), while energy demand from hydropower and other renewable energy resources will rise by 60% (WWAP, 2009). These issues are interconnected – increasing agricultural output, for example, will substantially increase both water and energy consumption, leading to increased competition for water between water-using sectors.
  • Water availability is expected to decrease in many regions. Yet future global agricultural water consumption alone is estimated to increase by ~19% by 2050, and will be even greater in the absence of any technological progress or policy intervention.
  • Water for irrigation and food production constitutes one of the greatest pressures on freshwater resources. Agriculture accounts for ~70% of global freshwater withdrawals (up to 90% in some fast-growing economies).
  • Economic growth and individual wealth are shifting diets from predominantly starch-based to meat and dairy, which require more water. Producing 1 kg of rice, for example, requires ~3,500 L of water, 1 kg of beef ~15,000 L, and a cup of coffee ~140 L (Hoekstra and Chapagain, 2008). This dietary shift is the greatest to impact on water consumption over the past 30 years, and is likely to continue well into the middle of the twenty-first century (FAO, 2006).

~ These facts were taken directly from the United Nations’ Water research and fact sharing online resource.

Burry recently told New York Magazine (via email, did you expect anything less?) that water could be seen as “political and litigious” (you’ll know this if you’ve watched a Mad Max movie).  He goes on to explain how he isn’t investing in water, per say but rather focusing on food grown in water rich areas that is transported for sale in water poor areas. It not only touches on redistribution but also offers a profitable market to someone like Burry. 

The thing is, there is a far greater issue here. Wrap your head around this:

Acqua for life
Wellbore in Niassante (Senegal):
The water collected on site is unfit for human consumption. To obtain drinking water, it is necessary to have it delivered from Richard Toll, more than one hour’s drive away. For their daily needs, the inhabitants of the region travel more than twenty kilometers with their rudimentary cart pulled by a skinny horse or a donkey. The water is transported in plastic cans, or often in recycled truck tire inner tubes. Here, you do not pay for the amount of water but for the size of the tube.
  • 783 million people do not have access to clean water and almost 2.5 billion do not have access to adequate sanitation.
  • With expected increases in population, by 2030, food demand is predicted to increase by 50% (70% by 2050) (Bruinsma, 2009), while energy demand from hydropower and other renewable energy resources will rise by 60% (WWAP, 2009). These issues are interconnected – increasing agricultural output, for example, will substantially increase both water and energy consumption, leading to increased competition for water between water-using sectors.
  • Water availability is expected to decrease in many regions. Yet future global agricultural water consumption alone is estimated to increase by ~19% by 2050, and will be even greater in the absence of any technological progress or policy intervention.
  • Water for irrigation and food production constitutes one of the greatest pressures on freshwater resources. Agriculture accounts for ~70% of global freshwater withdrawals (up to 90% in some fast-growing economies).

Acqua for Life

Acqua for life
Saint Louis – Senegal
One of the immediate benefits of access to water is the ability for pupils to drink at any time, without having to leave the school grounds.
I’m embarrassed to admit that none of the above was something I paid attention to or even noted until a week ago, when I was asked to participate in the Armani Acqua for Life initiative. The idea was that I’d get a 10 litre jerrycan to cart around on World Water Day (22 March). I could only use the water in the can for the course of the day. The concept was to raise awareness around water conservation and share my experience on social media for others to follow using the hashtag #10litres1day. I happen to like the fragrance and it sounded like we’d be doing something good so agreed to participate without much more though.
The 22nd of March turned in to one of the busiest days of my year so the tweets were few and far between – but the water challenge was real. My first challenge involved me cheating. I figured using the gym shower after a rather hectic run was completely justified (I mean I had work to go to right?). Truth be told, had I have used my 10 litre supply for the shower I’d probably have had no water by noon. I spend far too long in the shower just letting the water run over me. I started the challenge with teeth brushing. Interestingly my respect for the can of water was close on nil. I splashed and spilled excess precious liquid without thinking twice. By midday I’d used water in my coffee (and my tea), water to boil two eggs, water to drink and I was already on my way out. Between cooking, cleaning and just general wastage I went through more of that can than I thought possible.

When you read the facts above and follow through with measuring how much water you’re wasting – it starts adding up.

Acqua for life
Richard Toll – Senegal:
This model school is one of the largest in the region. It has more than 1,800 pupils and enjoys a reputation for excellence that makes it even more attractive. It is in this school on the outskirts of the town of Richard Toll that the Acqua For Life program has succeed its most ambitious achievements: in addition to the 4 water points intended to allow pupils to drink, a water tower has been built. It allows the school to set up a permanent reserve of drinking water to cope with occasional failures of the local network.

The Acqua for Life initiative is run in conjunction with Armani, UNICEF and Green Cross International. Now in its 6th year it has provided 108 communities in 8 countries and 3 continents access to drinking water (that’s 880 million litres of water, if you were wondering).

So while Burry figures out how to make far too much moola off a scarce resource and companies like Armani try give back and improve the living conditions of those less fortunate – what can we do to make a difference? 

I’ve found two gadgets that will help you save water and allow you to contribute to the Acqua for Life initiative in your own way:

Hippo

Acqua for life

This is a clever water saver that sits in the cistern of your toilet. It’s a Polyethylene device that opens to look like a box. When you flush it aids in stopping excess water from being wasted. Simple, smart and efficient.

Waterpebble

Acqua for life

A little water activated gadget that works as a shower timer. You place it by your shower plug and it senses the water flowing around it. When it flashes green you start showering, Amber means you’re half way through and should start finishing up, red flashes mean you’re now wasting water. Ultimately it shortens your shower time and saves water.

While both these products are overseas based you’d be able to use Aramex Global Shopper to bring them in locally without too much difficulty.

If you’re gambling on the stock market water should probably be your next big investment but saving water in your own way is an investment in the world and our future. Do your bit. I’ll leave you with this interesting (and rather terrifying) fact:

To produce one bottle of wine you’ll need more than 400 bottles of water…. some people don’t even have access to 5 litres a day. Are you doing your bit to save yet? 

 

 

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