Author Michael McCullough is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania’s Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences. This is the introduction to his paper in the IGEL Student Research Briefs series. Click here to read the whole paper>> Opinions are those of the authors and not of Penn, Wharton or IGEL.
Water is an increasingly scarce resource due to booming population growth, increased demand and climate change. Many investors see global water scarcity as an investment opportunity. This ever widening gap between supply and mounting global demand is an obvious selling point for some investment funds eager to acquire an under-valued commodity. Unlike oil, gold or copper commodities, however, the basic supply-demand calculus will not necessarily yield predictable returns on water because of political risks inherent in charging increasing prices for a life-sustaining service. A successful strategy will seek to provide cost-effective technology enabling consumers to receive and enjoy the same level of water service while consuming significantly less water.1 Additionally, water-inefficient production processes, primarily in the agricultural sector account for the vast majority of water consumption, meaning gains in efficiency can do much to close the supply shortfall if increasing prices incentivize efficiency (Ghosh 2009; 2030 Water Resources Group 2009).