Friday, August 26, 2011

The business of unending demand

A television producer recently accosted me with an uncomfortable question: Isn’t bottled water a reliable source in water-stressed situations? Loaded as the query was, the answer could well be both ‘yes’ and ‘no’. It is a non-issue for those who can afford to pay for it but for 884 million Indians who lack access to safe water supplies a ‘no’ could only be at the cost of their lives.

It makes a perfect case for a business strategy on water, where demand is pledged much before supplies get ensured. Since water as a resource is available to everyone but owned by none, it does create an economic disincentive for stewardship on one hand by simultaneously opening a business incentive for controlling it on the other.

Corporate control on water is a reality that has percolated in our lives; bottled water being one of its many variants. Curiously, however, corporate strategies on water are often flawed on account of over-exploitation of a natural resource that for all practical purposes is in public domain. The much publicized Coca Cola case has set up tension between the public and private sectors.

William Sarni has produced a virtual who’s who on corporate water, enumerating the potential risks by some of the leading water corporations across the world. Corporate Water Strategies is a call to action for every company to move toward water stewardship and constructively engage all stakeholders in crafting 21st century solutions to sustainably managing water.

Citing the example of Singapore, that has been officially classified as ‘water stressed’, Sarni emphasizes how diversified water sources, water reuse, water pricing and water efficiency have been integrated to develop an enlightened water stewardship for the next century. The driving principle for water stewardship rests on it being considered a ‘local’ resource, whose risks and opportunities must be assessed by corporations within the prevailing conditions. Only then can corporate water strategies be effective in managing our limited resource. In the conflicting world of corporate water control, the book is reassuring of a better future.....Link

Corporate Water Strategies
by William Sarni
Earthscan, London
262 pages, $40

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