WATER ECONOMIES 💧
This article previously appeared in GOnPATH.💧
After being inactive for a while due to the dynamic stage that characterizes the end of the term and, finally, of the career itself 🏆. I found myself in the need to concentrate my days on the preparation of my final projects, as well as the revision of certain topics for the final exam. “The well-known” CENEVAL.
Now, with time on my side, I can resume this interesting mix between a blog and an upcoming newsletter.
And, taking advantage of the fact that, the last few months, I was wasting my eyes 👀 between databases, reports, and digital books with the aim of collecting information that would be useful for my “Research Protocol” of my Finance Degree Seminar.
I came to the conclusion that it would be a waste to leave such work lying around in a folder named “ESTA ES LA BUENA” 📁 in a corner of my laptop 💻.
For this reason, I will share below certain points that I consider important, interesting, and, in some cases, quite worrying with respect to what I have learned, thanks to the research carried out 👇:
Water Economies: The New Social and Economic Order of the 21st Century 💧.
First, we must take into account that water has been a vital element of human societies 💧.
It was thanks to this resource that great civilizations such as the Mesopotamians, Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Aztecs, or Mayans (just to mention some of them) were able to build their impressive cities and, at the same time, develop their influence and dominance in their respective space/time.
However, it was also due to the lack of this resource that the majority of the aforementioned empires/kingdoms were subdued in the most devastating way.
Such is the case of the downfall of the Great Tenochtitlán.
Tenochtitlán collapsed on the 13th of August 1521.
Hernán Cortés and his troops were able to achieve victory after 93 days of bloody battle 💥 “over this strong city”, according to the words of Bernal Díaz del Castillo himself (Spanish conquistador).
The battle-hardened Mexicas defended themselves day and night; however, famine, thirst, and disease gradually weakened the lines of defense, and eventually, the siege began to close.
Cortes designed a siege strategy using the old ways of the Art of War, by cutting the supply lines and fresh water, thanks to the fact that they had under control the Texcoco Lake. They had 16 thousand canoes and 13 bergantines, from which they launched attacks on the city and its occupants.
The final result, as we already know, was fruitful for the conquerors, forcing the Mexicas to capitulate (surrender). In this way, a chapter of history concluded and, at the same time, a series of events that would mark our reality would begin.
Now then, “If you see your neighbor’s beard on fire, water your own 🔮”
Having addressed the previous example, the above phrase assumes special relevance because, today, our “civilization will also be conditioned by the undeniable and profound interdependence of water with #energy, #food, and climate change” (Solomon, 2010).
After all, water security 💧 will be one of the greatest challenges that nations will face in the 21st century. Given that “governments, industry and civil society are facing a huge risk of water shortages, while demand for water is increasing 📈 and supply is becoming scarcer 📉” (National Intelligence Council, 2020, p. 1).
And the worrying thing about water scarcity is that this state of affairs is becoming a reality — in part — thanks to its relative “easy access” since the Industrial Revolution began. Resulting in a large part of today’s societies taking for granted the supply of this vital resource. Without devoting more importance to the process and the cost behind the potable water system of their homes, neighborhoods, and cities.
But when the chain ⛓️ that guarantees the smooth operation is broken ⚠️; it is when we manage to understand the strategic — and vital ♥️- significance of this water resource 💧.
For this reason, U.S. Air Force pilots, “during their training in the Survival, Evasion, Endurance and Escape course, are taught that they can live for weeks without food, but only for days without water” (Young, 1996).
And to put it briefly: As a society, we need to consciously revalue water.
Today, more than ever, because of the rate we are going. If we do so tomorrow, it would be too late.
Knowing that today, we have the data at our disposal (just a click 🖱️ away) and, moreover, we have a history marked by war conflicts going back several millennia due to the lack of access to water.
And, if, just for the sake of curiosity, we do a bit of research on this topic. It is possible to get the idea that, “scarce and valuable fresh water, has played a role in conflicts as an aggravating factor, in the form of a target, as an instrument to an end, or as a weapon.” (Gleick, 2019).
21st Century: Water, the Achilles heel of “inefficient” societies.
**In this section, what most caught my attention were the numbers and graphs that make it possible to visualize the size of the challenge ahead.
When looking at our most recent period (XX-XXI). From 1900 to the date I write these lines of text, humanity witnessed an increase in demand 📈 for this resource, in many regions of the world 🌎, as a result of population growth (8 billion people) and economic expansion 💸 (Gleick, P. & Iceland, C., 2018).
In fact, if, we pay attention to the following graph; We see that freshwater withdrawals for agriculture, #industry, and #municipal use, have increased almost six-fold since 1900 (Ritchie H. & Roser M. 2015).
With a simple look at the graph 👁️🗨️, it is clearly visible that the trend of freshwater consumption became higher as time went by.
However, it is also, evident that such water consumption in the period from 1901 to 1934, had an increase of 49.15% in comparison to the increase of 147.83% experienced in the period from 1934 to 1968.
According to data from the Global International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme, water consumption went from 1,001,227,847,427 m³ in 1934 to 2,349,150,276,457 m³ in 1968.
This is equivalent to 2.35 times higher consumption 🆙 in a practically similar time range ⌛ (three decades).
To a large extent, this increase in freshwater consumption 💧 was influenced thanks to the so-called “Green Revolution” 🚜 which, is nothing more than, the increase in field production with the objective 🎯 of (Ceccon, E., 2008: p. 21):
[…] generate high rates of #agricultural #productivity 🌽 on the basis of large-scale extensive production and the use of high #technology 💊.
Having as main support the #genetic 🧬 selection of new high-yielding crop varieties, associated with the #intensive #exploitation allowed by #irrigation and the massive use of #chemical #fertilizers 💊, #pesticides, #herbicides, tractors 🚜 and other #heavy #machinery 🛢️.
All this, led to a general increase in #water consumption and, to date, only talking about the #agriculture sector worldwide 🌎, approximately 70% of the freshwater withdrawn is used (Gleick, P.H et al., 2014).
In order to dimension and understand this reality in more depth …
Let’s look at the comparison 👀 between the following three countries and the global average, according to data from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO): In the case of the United States, they use 39.66% of their water for agriculture 🌾 as part of total freshwater withdrawals 💧; Canada uses, 7.41% and in Mexico, we make use of 76.04%.
We are talking about that, in Mexico, we use ≈ (approx.) 4.76 percentage points more than the global average (71.28% 🌎).
That 76.04% is a surprising figure if we analyze in more detail the numbers held by each country.
Taking into account that, according to data from The World Bank (2020), in the year 2020, the United States had 4 million 058 thousand 104 square kilometers (km²) of agricultural land; Canada, on the other hand, had 577 thousand 430 km² and México, on its part, had 971 thousand 380 km².
The impressive thing about this is that México, with an equivalent of 23.94% of the agricultural land of the United States, consumes practically twice as much fresh water 💧 in this sector than US.
Undoubtedly, in México, we have a lot of #work to do in the sense of #optimization and conscious use of this #resource.
Water Futures Market 📈 💧
2020 was a year in which global forecasts were grim due to the COVID-19 pandemic, followed by the supply chain crisis and, of course, the loss of jobs caused by mandatory quarantines and the global downturn in economic activity 📉.
And in the heart of this series of events, water 💧 once again played an important role.
While its consumption was reduced 📉 both in the educational and commercial sectors 🏬 -stores, shopping malls and businesses of different types- (Irwin, N. B., McCoy, S. J., & McDonough, 2021), thanks to the strategy imposed by most governments in which they sought to control and, in the best case, prevent contagion.
Through an action plan that consisted of social distancing, the use of masks, constant handwashing, as well as the cleaning of inhabited places, and personal hygiene (World Health Organization, 2020).
This change in behavioral patterns led to an 📈 increase in residential water consumption 🏘️ (Irwin, N. B., McCoy, S. J., & McDonough, 2021).
This amounted to a 📈 21% increase on average in daily water consumption in U.S. households since the onset of the pandemic, equivalent to 24.3 gallons per day compared with the months of February through April. (Phyn, 2020)
Simply put, according to these data, if each of the nation’s 95 million single-family homes followed this trend, that would mean nearly 2.5 billion additional gallons of water consumed each day in the U.S. (Phyn, 2020).
In the same scenario, on December 7, 2020, a water futures market 💧 would start operations in the state of California, which would attract worldwide attention (Kammeyer, C., 2021).
In a way, this event set off certain alarms 🚨 that, seen from a logical perspective, make a lot of sense.
Although the social perception is that there is a “stable” and secure supply of this water resource. However, the truth is that this reality is increasingly uncertain, adding climate change to the equation.
And, if we add to this the reality that water is becoming a commodity that can be bought or sold in the futures markets. We know that the incentives will play psychologically with the market participants, and the latter will do the same with the price of this resource, making it even more expensive 💸.
And at the end, it will “only become a single profit margin” at the close of each trading day or season.
And this, at the same time, will distract societies from the urgent tasks at hand:
♦ The optimization of its use;
♦ Water purification; or,
♦ Providing access to it.
As an example, we can see the increase in the price of the water futures contract, which can be observed in the following chart (Nasdaq Veles California Water)
It is for this reason that comments such as the one made by Pedro Arrojo Agudo take on greater relevance:
“I am very concerned that water is now being treated like gold, oil and other commodities traded on Wall Street futures markets.”
Pedro serves as Special Rapporteur on the rights to water and sanitation for the United Nations.
And now, to conclude, let’s address the following…
Of the total amount of water on the planet Earth, only 3% is freshwater (NOAA). Of this total freshwater, approximately 70% is retained in the form of ice, in glaciers and ice caps, and the remaining 30% is under the surface of the Earth (Shiklomanov, 1991).
And, according with a report made by the World Bank (2016), entitled “Climate change, water and the economy”; it is estimated that, if the pertinent actions are not adopted regarding the responsible and efficient use of water, this resource will become scarce in regions where it is currently abundant and this scarcity will worsen to alarming levels in regions where it is already scarce.
In fact, currently, around 1.6 billion people — ≈ 20% of humanity — live in countries with physical water scarcity, and in just two decades this figure could double (World Bank, 2016).
In conclusion, based on the data that were analyzed from different documentary sources, it is concluded that primarily developing countries, including Mexico, will face an unprecedented crisis due to the scarcity of freshwater as a result of the excessive and uncontrolled use of this resource.
Most of Mexico’s water is used for agricultural (76.04%), domestic (16.20%) or industrial (7.76%) consumption.
As a matter of fact, in our country (MX), renewable freshwater resources per capita have decreased at a rate of 8.32% on average per year during the period 1962–2018 and this behavior shows no signs of recovery, as can be observed thanks to data provided by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO, 2022).
This leads us to the following point: If we as societies do not modify our behavior to one focused on sustainability, which, in simple terms (focusing strictly on this resource), means making efficient use of water resources, especially in the Mexican countryside (irrigated agriculture).
In a little less than half a century, the country (and the world) will live a new reality of chaos and violence, greater than the current one, due to the desperation and agony that the lack of access to fresh water will bring upon us.
This will lead to the emergence of large-scale conflicts in regions that suffer first-hand from the lack of water (mainly arid regions and the country’s large cities). Recent examples such as that of Boquilla, Chihuahua, where federal authorities (National Guard) and local farmers clashed over the control of a dam, leaving two people dead (Kitroeff, 2020), are a clear example of what we could face in the near future.
These events are irrefutable proof that, if we do not opt for conservation and sustainability, our Contemporary Generations will face a war for water and their own survival.
If you made it this far, I thank you for your time and interest 😁.
⚜️ For now, I’ll say goodbye.
But first, I would like to ask you what you think about it 🤔?
See you soon ☕!
Happy New Year 2023🎇!!!