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Water, Food, Population



June 08, 2008 – Comments (23)

This past year I've had my students look at water, food and population issues.  When I look at US water issues I believe that water is being used at unsustainable levels in some places.  So, Naked Capitalism has a post on the seriousness of water issues in California, which is a huge supplier of agricultural products, which are dependent on water access.  The post is actually about residential developments being denied if the developer can't show 20 years of water supply.  A big part of my interest has been to follow it in terms of how it relates to the food supply.

The US has about 10 times the population of Canada and China has more that 40 times the population density.  The way I look at it is if the US is already having serious water issues, China's development will be limited by water issues. 

Actually, with research I did with my students we found that something like half the population already have some water supply issues, either the water isn't particularly safe, or there is limited access to water.

This is the second story I've read this week related to serious water issues.  There are serious water issues in many countries in the world. 

23 Comments – Post Your Own

#1) On June 08, 2008 at 7:12 PM, binv271828 (< 20) wrote:

That is the truth and it is very serious.
There are infrastructure plays for this: PHO, FIW, LAYN, MWA-B, SBS, VE, and many others.

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#2) On June 08, 2008 at 8:42 PM, Tastylunch (28.65) wrote:

This makes me glad to live in Ohio. :-)

Colorado, Utah, NM, Ariz, SoCal, Georgia all of them are going to be gasping for our water


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#3) On June 08, 2008 at 9:08 PM, russiangambit (28.80) wrote:

India has a very serious water problem. Middle East countries like Saudi Arabia and Dubai use technologies to trun salt water into dringing water. I think, this technology will be in big demand oin the future. May be 5 years out.

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#4) On June 08, 2008 at 9:16 PM, mandrake66 (50.76) wrote:

Of course the U.S. is gifted with water resources like few countries on the planet. The main problem is that we waste it in ways that make our petroleum usage look downright frugal. And I'm fully aware of how frugal we are in that regard.

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#5) On June 08, 2008 at 9:40 PM, joeykid13 wrote:

l'eau de vie...exactemente!  Bravo dwot mon fave...LOL

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#6) On June 08, 2008 at 9:45 PM, kristm (99.78) wrote:

MY part of Georgia is fine with water. It's the former Ohioans living in Atlanta who are going to die of thirst...

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#7) On June 08, 2008 at 9:56 PM, joeykid13 wrote:

I meant exactement!...sometimes the Italian gets mixed with the French...damn!

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#8) On June 08, 2008 at 11:01 PM, LaughingToBank (93.00) wrote:

Totally agree with the water issues. So any stocks that can take advantage of the shortage and working on new tech for water problem?

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#9) On June 08, 2008 at 11:27 PM, bellard (97.53) wrote:

Water and energy issues are pretty much the same. Water no longer flows downhill, it flows to money......

In Southern Utah we are fighting a state sponsored plan to put a straw in Lake fowl, and pump the water up and over 200 Miles of rugged terrain to flow into St. George utah - and the only reason is so we can keep the huge new home building rates for years into the future.

You will start to see desalinization plants, and water pumped up to the population also - then you use energy......

On a good note, the amount we waste water is unbelievable! the US could easily conserve our way out of the water issue IMHO.

My stock pick NWPX:

Northwest Pipe Company manufactures and markets large-diameter, high-pressure steel pipeline systems for use in water infrastructure applications, primarily related to drinking water systems. Its pipeline systems are also used for hydroelectric power systems, wastewater systems, and other applications. The company also manufactures and markets smaller diameter, electric resistance welded steel pipe for use in a range of applications, including construction, agricultural, industrial, energy, and traffic signpost systems. In addition, Northwest Pipe Company manufactures and markets propane tanks, as well as a range of other fabricated metal products and water transmission fitting work.


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#10) On June 09, 2008 at 9:37 AM, GS751 (26.93) wrote:

bellard I will check out NWPX.  I think that singapore is becoming the silicone valley of the global water industry. 

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#11) On June 09, 2008 at 9:55 AM, devoish (82.18) wrote:


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#12) On June 09, 2008 at 10:44 AM, FoolishChemist (93.56) wrote:

If we don't plan ahead, our water problems will make our current oil problems look tame by comparison.  Here's an interesting blog about why Atlanta and the Southeast are really vulnerable.

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#13) On June 09, 2008 at 10:59 AM, madcowmonkey (< 20) wrote:

Why is it that so many people decide to live in dry desert type places. Granted, GA is far from the desert, but if you have ever been to St. George, you would be doing the water, water, I need water bit. Phoenix, AZ is one of the places that cracks me up. People are moving to the Maricopa county more than any other county and they have the same issues as the dwot post. Developers need to be able to supply the water, well you can't make water grow, but you can use the desalinization techniques that are being worked on all over the world. Imagine using ocean water in a canal system to water the farms. Man that would be interesting. Eventually, this is what parts of China will have to do, but guess what. I can't imagine their ocean water is all that safe. The rivers they are polluting end up flowing to the ocean eventually. Their industrious ways are going to destroy the population in another decade or two. That is right, I said it. I think you could find a couple of examples on the net, where people in China have documented the smaller non wealthy citizens drinking water that is not healthy by any standards. I think I read an issue about a television plant that was polluting a river and causing the entire community to have enflamed/enlarged kidneys. Well, people that harm there organs, most likely will not live as long as somebody that doesn't. So maybe China will not have to worry about their population for very much longer, they might just wipe it out for a buck or two.

dwot- I posted the oil sands project and the issue of water that is taking place in Canada. It looks like the barrel of oil that is produced from the sand takes 3-6 barrels of water. After they use the water, it is stored into a holding pond. I guess it is so toxic that they do not know what to do with it. I think there will be a larger than life issue taking place with the oil methods that are destroying Canada's water supplies. 

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#14) On June 09, 2008 at 12:25 PM, ricoy5 (25.63) wrote:

Thanks dwot - interesting post and a not talked about enough issue...

Thanks bellard - I'll check out NWPX

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#15) On June 09, 2008 at 2:42 PM, dwot (29.45) wrote:

Wow, what a response.  Any, with water issues as they are to me it means that even though China has large population, water will quickly limit the degree the standard of living can improve.

Something else, agricultural demand for water has grown at twice the rate of city water demand.  That just seems very bad for future population growth and the cost of food.  I think this is going to be a particularly strong economic killer where water issues are stronger. 

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#16) On June 11, 2008 at 12:05 PM, bshoemak2 (< 20) wrote:

Hi dwot, good to see some awareness of conflicts over water resources.  I couldn't agree more. Here in Florida, we are surrounded by saltwater, which creeps into drinking water wells when aquifers are overpumped, especially during droughts. Other issues include subsurface transport of contaminates, nutrient loading to coastal esturies, developing reliable water budgets for communities, impacts of climate change on sea-level rise and water availability, fate of injected waste-waters, and the list goes on and on.  There thankfully are many government agencies and private companies studying and attempting to manage water issues.  Seem to be many exciting technologies to deal with water demand growth such as aquifer storage and recovery, rain barrels, water conservation areas, wetland restoration projects.  I'm optimistic about the future, and suspect we'll continue to generally have clean water for drinking and recreation, with some exceptions. Alot of work goes into water management, which generally goes unreconized.  Also, interesting that water prices have recently remained low, while other commodites prices have increased.  This may change, as population continues to grow.  At any rate, thanks for contributing this interesting topic of discussion. 

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#17) On June 11, 2008 at 7:45 PM, lulamae12 (< 20) wrote:

I'm from Oklahoma and we've went from being the 'Dustbowl' to the state with the most man made lakes.  We have fishing, swimming, boating and lots of usable water for our states usage.  Oklahoma went through a drought years ago and have turned our state around. I suggest other states  do  the  same  thing!

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#18) On June 11, 2008 at 10:15 PM, TheGarcipian (33.67) wrote:

After the fallout from the Olympics and the threatened health of Olympians in the air they breathe as well as the water they drink, China is now reporting a decline in 3 major air pollutants, but their water pollutants have spiked. Note that "reporting" and "actuals" may differ and probably do differ considerably:

and see here for an entire list of NYT articles on the subject.

But China has been saying these sorts of things for years, at least for the last 7 by my counting... maybe this time, it's for real? Yeah, right.

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#19) On June 12, 2008 at 12:44 AM, Boo2007 (69.25) wrote:

Вода от которой завист наша жизнь, ее проблемы не везде стоят на первом месте , наше государство занимаетня не проблемами жизни своих людей а своими кошельками, У нас вода сейчас по магазинах в пластике, с большими накрутками. свя остальная вода которой мы пользуемся контролируется от ЧП до ЧП а где используется в централизованых поставках там может и есть контроль но не мне об этом судить.

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#20) On June 13, 2008 at 3:30 PM, FSUSully (88.21) wrote:

Whenever anyone asks how to play the water shortage the answer inevitably is infrastructure.  Companies like MWA or the above mentioned NWPX.  Basically pipes and pumps.  I understand how someone can make money moving water from someplace that has it to someplace that doesn't but what are the companies that turn undrinkable water into drinkable water?  This, in effect, is "new" water.  It is new supply.  These are the companies that I think are best positioned over the next 20 or 30 years to profit from water shortages.  For instance, I read somewhere that a water district in Southern Cal is now treating sewage and drinking it using some super duper filters and special lights.  Something about reverse osmosis.  And of course there are some companies specializing in desalinization.  Does anyone have any recommendations regarding pure plays like this?


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#21) On June 15, 2008 at 2:36 AM, dwot (29.45) wrote:

The World Expo in Spain's theme is water issues.

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#22) On June 16, 2008 at 7:38 PM, PueoFool (< 20) wrote:

Anybody have a rec on a good desalinization play?  I think that's a good place to start. May be a bit early.

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#23) On June 20, 2008 at 12:36 AM, hansthered0 (< 20) wrote:

Dwot, what do you think of Vandana Shiva?

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