Water is not the new oil; nor is its footprint similar to carbon
Here, at TaKaDu, we’ve argued in the past that water is NOT the new oil. But recently, various measures of virtual water (the amount of water that goes into beef, an apple or a pair of jeans) have gone mainstream, along with attempts to measure freshwater withdrawals for production as a measure of water conservation, with Nestle as a prime example.
Winston argues against this very logic, by indicating the fallacy of comparing carbon footprints with water withdrawals or virtual water.
His reasoning is as follows:
- Carbon is fungible but water is not. The environmental issues stemming from emitting of a ton of carbon are fundamentally the same everywhere on the planet.
- In contrast, geography and time are critical aspects of water availability and management. All water issues are local — any global water strategy is actually implemented within each and every watershed.
- Water has a strong social and cultural dimension. Many people believe in a “human right to water” which makes pricing this resource even harder than putting a price on carbon.
- Water is the ultimate renewable resource — we just need to price water according to value and ensure we do not continue to manage it as a throw away commodity.
- Finally, to be overly obvious, water is desired, beneficial, necessary.
We’d like to add one more difference to complete the argument, in the spirit of smart water networks.
Water is a resource that needs to be managed properly. Without water management, in terms of pricing, network etc, our use of this resource is hurting our sustainability. Even if virtual water within an apple remains the same, changes in the pricing of water can make its irrigation more efficient, make growers prefer it or decide to stop growing it in accordance with local conditions. The apple will remain the same, but changes to make the water network more effective, efficient and less prone to water loss will make the water that underlies that same apple more available, renewable and clean.