WATER – WILL BE WORTH MORE THAN OIL OR EVEN GOLD!

about 25 days ago
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It is so scary!

That’s the unanimous reaction as we read stories about Chennai’s acute water shortage and Maharashtra too running dry rapidly. To know that monsoon will hit drought hit Maharashtra only by 25th June, a delay of 20 days this year.

It is scary because this situation is right at your doorstep and for your children in the future, it might as well be a perennial scarcity. And you watch these politicians on TV, it looks like this water scarcity and their lives are on two different planets. There is not a single politician today who has spoken in his campaign about water scarcity and how we plan to deal with it. That’s the scary part – that our leaders are taking this issue seriously and there is simply a complete lack of vision.

With such a huge population and so much of it depending on agriculture, it is shocking that we have such a callous attitude towards water, a life giver and rejuvenator. Chennai, one of the metros of India is today dry and arid; people are standing in ques to get water to drink. Water tanker comes once in every three days and people are make do with whatever they can store. Hotels and restaurants have shut down. The wealthy are living on expensive tankers coming from outskirts of Tamil Nadu where there is enough water. But those in the slums and poorer households are living a life worse than a dog. With borewells running dry despite going deeper and deeper, the situation is pretty grim. Decades of drilling into the earth to reach water has led to severe ground water depletion.

A country which concentrates only on economic growth while the rapidly growing cities go dry; what kind of priorities are we dealing with? Sadly, we all talk about this only when rains get delayed; rest of the year we all happily waste water, paying no heed to the needs of tomorrow.

The harsh truth is – unless we change our lifestyles to adapt to the water shortages and change the way we store water to suit the change in rain intensity, we, villages, towns, cities, everyone of us will suffer really badly.

To a large extent, water scarcity is a man-made condition, and only people’s efforts can solve the crisis. People and the elected leaders need to realise that today’s water-related challenges are no longer readily solved just by using last century’s hydraulic schemes. Increased funding and resources need to be provided for the collection of detailed water data and information. The World Bank has said that the global population is growing fast, and estimates show that with current practices, the world will face a 40% shortfall between forecast demand and available supply of water by 2030. Feeding 9 billion people by 2050 will require a 60% increase in agricultural production, (which consumes 70% of the resource today), and a 15% increase in water withdrawals. 

So if this water crisis is largely created by us, are there any solutions? Every problem exists because there is a solution. Apart from us doing things at our level, micro level, like using a bucket to take a bath, using water used to wash vegetables and pulses to water plants, only run full washing machine and dishwasher loads, restricting washing the car to once a week; so many such small changes are help conserve water. But on a much larger scale, on a macro level is what will bring about a change. A few random thoughts on that:

  • Information management – data on water reservoirs, ground water levels is most crucial
  • Get water usage metered, like the way we meter electricity.
  • Incentivize schools, colleges and offices to take steps to better allocate, regulate, and conserve water resources.
  • Water harvesting should be made mandatory in every state.
  • Invest in innovative technologies for enhancing productivity, conserving and protecting resources, recycling storm water and wastewater.
  • Explore options of developing non-conventional water sources
  • Develop systems for enhanced water storage, including aquifer recharge and recovery.
  • Start a nationwide campaign for saving water, like the one by the Singapore Govt.
  • Along with GDP and inflation targets, let us have targets for bringing down total water consumption as a country
  • Reduce harmful land erosion caused by agricultural irrigation.
  • Municipalities across the nation can apply mulch around trees and plants to slow evaporation and decrease water demands.

As the years roll, water will become as precious as oil, if not more. It would be no exaggeration to say that water will get transported through pipelines, not just in India as it is already being done but like oil, get imported.  Tankers will travel more to transport water and maybe across the seas too, like oil. Shortage of water is not just endemic to India but all over the world.

Well, we being in the stock market, even this water scarcity is an opportunity. Where there is a scarcity there is an opportunity – that is how stock market views every crisis. There is a shortage of supply and demand is only expected to grow and that in simple economic sense makes great investment sense. And looking at a horizon of 7-10 years down the line, investing in “water stocks” makes perfect sense. There are only a few listed on the Indian stock exchanges. A quick look at some of them:

Thermax : The best and well known water management company. Order intake has picked up and future for the sector thus for the company, given its expertise is extremely bright.

Jain Irrigation: The company is the first and last name when it comes to drip irrigation and that is the way ahead and given its dominance in this field, it’s the company to watch out for in this sector.

ION Exchange: This company has been around for years and pioneered water treatment when no one was even thinking about it. It is one of the best bets when it comes to water treatment, supplying not just to the companies but to homes also. Indian Railways water, Railneer, which is pure and safe drinking water is supplied by this company.

Finolex Industries: It makes PVC pipes and as stated earlier, with water in the future expected to get transported by pipelines, this company could become a preferred choice.

VA Tech Wabag: Deslination is going to be the way ahead and this company has got the expertise and the experience. Chennai’s desalination plants stand testimony to this fact and they were set up by VA Tech.

The listed “bottled” water company is Mount Everest Mineral water which sells water under the brand name of “Himalaya”. This is now a part of Tata Global Beverages and thus has got an assured market through its Starbucks outlet for now.

Tata Chemicals: This Tata company has done a “Nano” in the water purifying sector with its Tata Swach water purifiers. With the starting price at Rs.899, going up to Rs.2000, the product is distributed all across Tata networks.

Shakti Pumps is a well-known name in installing solar water pumps in power and water deficient states. Its business is sure to pick up in Maharashtra and South India.

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