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International

Water, water everywhere, but only 2% to drink

GoingGreen, Davis CA: where'll we get the water?The panel: Dennis Merens, Director North America, Dow Venture Capital group.
Written by Harry Fuller, Contributor

    GoingGreen, Davis CA: where'll we get the water? The panel: Dennis Merens, Director North America, Dow Venture Capital group. John Sylvia, Partner, Texas Pacific Group. A. Judson Hill, Managine Director, Halifax Group. ------ The moderator begins by reminding us that water is plentiful, but plenty of it is NOT potable. AJH: a lot of very large corporations are moving into water sector and buying companies at 20 times esarnings or even more. Water will be critical resource. DM: I hope there is a Google intghe water industry. But I think the future is incremental. There are many differenet sectors: from municipal to industrial. Water is our universal solvent and is used in countless industries and daily activities. --------- Moderator: China's water supply in the future. 27% of China's rivers are already too polluted for any use. What are the technologies that will solve such a problem? In India and China much discretionary money is spent on obtaining water. DM: the technology exists to clean up rivers and polluted water. It's a question of regulation and the economics, the will to spend the money. AJH: Pricing is an issue. Price of water is totally not related to its value. It is very cheap right now. Lot of thought about how to price water. Pricing and allocation and use of tech to treat it--those are the crucial issues in future...a lot of our pipes in the U.S. are over 100 years, we lose large amounts of water to constant underground leakage. It may take a drinking water fakilure similar to the Minneapolis bridge collapse to get the spending on water infrastructure that's needed. JS: Vast differences between U.S.and developing nations. We [U.S.] fortunately have federal water regulations. Many develooing nations have no such policy and much water poloicy in emerging markets is based on who has the money or power locally. -------- DM: We have companies working on flouride and arsenic. In some parts of India arsenic is almost a plague. ------- AJH: Geospatial is a company that has technology to find underground pipes for water, gas, other things. We don't know the location of much of the underground pipes in America. ----- DM: Almost 30% opf water costs in America are electricity. Water is heavy and costly to move around. We should go back to the 19th Century model and make water a less centralized, much mofre localized utility. DM: You have to get a certain pain point in developed economies before anything gets going. In my life we do not talk about our water bill, not a home priority. From a corporation stand-point it is becloming a priority, and it's now very expensive to discharge in the U.S. if you use it in a process. I think energy today is the one that gets most personalo attention, that bill gets our attention. ------- AJH: In many developing nations if they pump the aquifer dry, the earth collapses and the water will NOT come back. -------- Moderator:where are the private corporate openings? JS: Up to 60% of water is consumed by agriculture in America. Most farm use is not efficient. Right water practices can improve crops and reduce water use. It requires behavior change. AJH: in many cases water is almost free. To get conservation you need realistic pricing. DM: In developing areas we find villagers will own and operate and benefit from their local system. That is a very sustainable model. ---------- short-term trends of interest AJH: Resource water is coming up while recovery of water is becoming cheaper. Also use of GPS to locate pipes is going to expand. JS: Biofuel will drive lots of water use. Law of unintended consquences. Irrigation will create a huge demand. DM: Driving cost down on purification systems, and even better tech for removing contaminants from water in developing world. -------------- Audience: where will you see first changes in American attitude toward water? DM:somewhere when there's a major water incident, esp if there was illness, or god-forbid, death AJH: our water supply is very exposed, important that we recognize that on this day [9-11]...you will see some change in places where there is most pressure: Florida, Texas, along the coasts ------ My take away: expect higher water prices at home.
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