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Investment metrics for climate change (III/IV): a good life needs water

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By Thomas Vogel

· 3 min read

This is part three of a four-part series on new investment metrics adapted to the realities of climate change. You can find part one here and part two here.

Water is underpriced

Even though billions of people still don’t have access to clean water, water is heavily underpriced in the rich world. No research is needed here, it’s enough to look at toilets: in many rich countries, they are flushed with drinking-quality fresh water. That’s only possible when water is underpriced.

Just like I invested in solar energy some ten years back and was laughed at, I am now investing in rainwater usage to flush our toilets and irrigate our garden.

Whilst the financials of this investment do not look favorable with today’s water prices in Switzerland, I am convinced that water prices will explode over the next decade. Going back to my solar energy investment ten years ago, I am now earning a handsome amount of money every year from selling my excess electricity to the local utility.

When looking at investments in climate change technology, it might pay off to invest upfront before resource prices explode.

Water is scarce

Irrespective of the price, freshwater is scarce. Farmers have started realizing this, too, and are experimenting with techniques such as not using fertilizer at all, using compost and humus extensively, or planting trees in their vegetable fields to save scarce water.

Whoever knows a farmer is easily convinced that farmers don’t take any experiments for the fun of it. Farmers are a breed of down-to-earth people, and they change when a changing climate shows them that there is no other way to succeed but to change with the climate.

Despite all the technology out there, farmers still work with and in nature. They serve as bell-weathers for climate change, as they are much more dependent on the climate and nature than other professions.

When looking at investments in climate change technology, it might make sense to ask a farmer for his or her advice before making an investment decision.

Water becomes the top priority very quickly

No water, no life. Humans survive without eating for weeks, but they can’t survive even for days without drinking.

So if water is missing, it becomes the top priority very quickly. Missing water can not just spark wildfires, it can also spark large-scale migration. Similarly, too much water from rising sea levels can also spark large-scale migration.

Therefore, it’s in society’s best interest that nobody has too much or too little water.

This article is also published on the author's blog. illuminem Voices is a democratic space presenting the thoughts and opinions of leading Sustainability & Energy writers, their opinions do not necessarily represent those of illuminem.

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About the author

Thomas Vogel is co-founder and CEO of Yonder.

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