The Water Business and the Public Trust

A few recycled thoughts in recognition of the United Nations' World Water Day:


Balancing the Water Business and the Public Trust

Aristotle was right. Water, along with earth, air and fire, is a one of the primary elements upon which life depends. Water is essential for our homes, our businesses, and especially for our farms. Water also is the great elixir that sustains fish, wildlife and the natural world.

Aristotle_Bust_White_Background_Transparent.pngAcross the globe, as a result of increases in population, depletion of groundwater basins and the uncertainty of future precipitation, shortages of this precious fluid continue to become more commonplace. Providing reliable water supplies requires both cost-effective investments in infrastructure as well as policies and incentives to ensure that existing supplies are used fairly and efficiently. 

There is a fundamental public interest or trust in water which requires that the environment and local communities be provided sufficient supplies and protected from more powerful and often remote economic interests. As water supplies decline, citizens in the 21st century should plan to monitor governmental management of water closely and to ensure that these indispensable public values are protected. 

However, the private sector has an important role to play as well. Improvements in efficiency as well as evolving human and environmental needs will inevitably bring about changes in water use patterns. A business model — with appropriate constraints — should be employed that allows and encourages innovation. In many cases, water should be marketed to those who can use it most efficiently and productively. More opportunity for appropriate water marketing will bring out the best ideas that resourceful water users, urban and agricultural alike, can implement. 

By improving efficiency in cities and on farms, economic incentives will help maximize food production and meet business needs while optimizing the use of limited water supplies. As a result, it will be easier to meet basic human needs and to reduce the pressure to extract ever increasing amounts of water from our rivers and streams.

By Spreck Rosekrans | Originally Published: October 15, 2010