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The Business Forum
THE IMPACT OF
WATER ON THE GLOBAL ECONOMY
Oil and petrochemicals were
the driving political and economic forces of the twentieth century -- water
has become the driving force of the twenty-first century, says Mr. Stephen
Sawdon, President of Pan American Bio Technologies, a subsidiary of the Pan
Mr. Sawdon suggests that the
first quarter of the new century will see severe water shortages in
sensitive parts of the world. The shortages in potable water for drinking,
bathing and agriculture will come from two different, but related sources.
First, the world's climate is warming and, while that will shrink the polar
ice caps, most of that water will be lost into the world's oceans and be
unavailable to the world's population centers. Further, this global warming
trend also suggests that drought conditions will continue to grow in regions
where clean water is already in short supply.
A second reason for the water
crisis stems from the worldwide movements toward industrialization.
Mankind, in an effort to become self-sufficient, is continuing to pollute
the world's rivers and lakes, as well as the oceans. The pollutants come
from at least two different sources. Organic wastes from people and
animals, and from plants manufacturing or processing foodstuffs, continue to
send their waste products into sensitive ecological systems.
Some cities in developing or
under developed countries have little or no sewage treatment plants. Many
lack water purification systems. These problems can result in water borne
diseases like hepatitis, cholera, typhoid, typhus and dysentery. The United
Nations estimated that, in 2000, nearly two billion of the world's six
billion people, one-third, lacked access to clean water. That number, says
Mr. Sawdon, will grow to encompass at least forty percent of the anticipated
population of the world by 2020 (3.2 to 4 billion people); that's only ten
A second kind of danger to
the world's water supply comes from the dumping of heavy metals' residues
into the soil. Heavy metals like lead and mercury are often by-products of
heavy manufacturing plants. These metals, over time, have found their way
into local water tables and, thence, into the drinking supplies of nearby
There are few places in the
world immune from one or both of these sources of pollution. When these
factors are added to the natural problems of severe drought and global
warming, it suggests that a real water crisis may be on hand by the end of
the first quarter of the century.
There are only a few
international agreements about water and water sharing. The demographics
that the United Nations and the Global Environmental Conferences (i.e.
Copenhagen, 2009) are projecting are, at best, discouraging. By 2025, India
will surpass China as the most populous nation on earth. That will require
large additional amounts of clean drinking water to serve the rapidly
growing population of the Subcontinent. Water access will become a major
factor in international politics as the world's population grows. Countries
who share a river, for example, may be tempted to take more than their fair
share of the water. This may result in "water wars." Consider the regional
impact if the United States redirected the waters of the Rio Grande away
from Mexico. Or if Mexico tried to redirect the waters of the Colorado
River away from the Sea of Cortez into the rapidly growing agricultural
areas of Northwestern Mexico.
Famine will become
commonplace in poor and under developed countries as a result of the growth
in the world's population.
The impact on the global
business community is clear: find ways to increase access to potable water,
worldwide. Companies like Pan American Bio Technologies are working in
under developed countries to build water purification plants so as to
provide clean drinking water to ever-larger populations. Working with the
government of the Peoples' Republic of China, Mr. Sawdon and his associates
have built and are building purification systems throughout China. His
processes use microbes, in huge amounts, to cleanse the water of organic
materials. That technology was proven during the Exxon Valdez
disaster some twenty years ago in Alaska.
Even the United States is not
immune to clean water shortages, drought and gloomy projections. California
and Texas have seen lengthy droughts since 2000, with accompanying
curtailments in water usage. Pan American Bio Technologies is working at
several sites in Arkansas and Alabama to clean up water pollution stemming
from large hog farms, where organic waste is regularly turned out into ponds
and creeks. Such waste finds its way into local water supplies.
In summation, accessibility
to clean drinking water has already become a crisis in the new century, now
ten years old. Wars may be fought over water rights. It is incumbent upon
the global business community to make provisions for companies like Mr.
Sawdon's and to recognize the importance of water politics in the near
Henry H. Goldman
a Fellow of The Business Forum Institute and
is the Managing Director of the Goldman Nelson Group.
Henry got his Masters Degree at the University of Iowa and did his
Doctoral Studies at the University of Southern California. He
is a Certified Professional Consultant to Management (CPCM); and has
published numerous articles in trade journals and was Associate
Editor of Taking Stock: A Survey on the Practice and Future of
Change Management (Berlin, Germany). He is a member of the
American Society for Training and Development (ASTD); Association of
Professional Consultants (APC) and the Institute of Management
Consultants (IMC). Henry has consulted and/or offered training in
South Africa, Tanzania, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Macau,
Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Barbados, Georgia, Kosovo,
Tajikistan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and of
course North America. He has also taught at Baker University: Lee’s
Summit, MO, 2008, he was an Adjunct Professor of International Business;
National Graduate School: Falmouth, MA, 2004-2008, Adjunct Professor
of Quality Management; California State University: Fullerton,
2005-2006, Lecturer on Taxation; University of California: Berkeley,
2002, Adjunct Professor of Management; University of Macau (China),
Adjunct Professor of Management, 2001-2003.
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