Doug Hornig and Alex Daley with Casey Research comment on how the World Bank’s Ismail Serageldin put it so succinctly: “The wars of the 21st century will be fought over water.”
With that revelation in mind, the 68-year-old Nestlé chair Peter Brabeck has raised some cogent issues regarding water.
Brabeck believes, along with many others, that water scarcity is the biggest threat facing humanity and says virtually nothing is being done about it.
Nestlé’s 68-year-old former CEO and current Chairman says he wants to privatize the water supply because people take water for granted which causes them to waste voluminous amounts.
Brabeck has taken a leading role in the development of the Water Resources Group (WRG), which promotes finding solutions with the combined effort of governments, business and civil society.
Global demand is expected to outstrip supply by up to 30% within the next 17 years.
“We’re talking about running out of oil, well it happens that we have 120 years of proven oil reserves, we have 240 years of proven gas reserves, we have 550 years of proven coal reserves, we have thousands of years of proven Uranium reserves and we are running out of water today.”
Brabeck says water needs to be seen in relationship to two other key challenges humanity is facing: food and energy security.
He points out that we are using more water, rather than less, to produce food and energy.
“We are using more and more water because we are using more and more irrigation, partly because we have more drought. This is why, if we cannot fix the water issue, we will not be able to give food or energy security. That’s where the nexus is established.”
“You can talk today to the energy sector and they realize now water is becoming the most critical element. That’s a big step. You wouldn’t have had that five years ago.”
Brabeck stresses a holistic view of the world to compensate for our tendency to specialize which has caused us to lose sight of the big picture.
“If you become more and more and more specialized in a world that is more and more interconnected, you are losing your impact and your credibility to find solutions,” he says. “It’s not only water. With most other problems, it’s a nexus issue.”
Of course all of Brabeck’s terrific insights would hold much more water (excuse the pun) if Nestlé weren’t the leading seller of bottled water in the world, which as the Guardian’s Jo Confino points out accounted for nearly 8% of its total 2011 sales of 83 Billion in Swiss francs.
Nestlé is subsequently viewed by the world at large as being “more interested in lining its own pockets through a back-door privatization of countries’ water supplies, than in saving the planet” and reduces Brabeck’s warning to a pathetic intellectual rationalization for the sake of profit.
Confino adds that last year, a documentary film (“Bottled Life”) accused Nestlé of extracting ground water for its bottled brands at the expense of local communities, often in poor countries.
Brabeck’s response is that activists are talking only about the smallest part of the water usage, and Brabeck insists he’s the first one to say water is a human right.
“This human right is the five litres of water we need for our daily hydration and the 25 litres we need for minimum hygiene. This amount of water is the primary responsibility of every government to make available to every citizen of this world, but this amount of water accounts for 1.5% of the total water which is for all human usage.”
Brabeck takes issue with the 98.5% of the water we are using, which is for everything else, which he believes is not a human right and because we treat it as one, we are using it in an irresponsible manner.
“Why? Because we don’t want to give any value to this water. And we know very well that if something doesn’t have a value, it’s human behavior that we use it in an irresponsible manner.”