Water, or more accurately the lack of water, is becoming a big deal.
For most Americans access to clean, safe water is a given. Water is so cheap we give it little thought. For example, despite living in an area with high water rates, until today I had no idea how much a gallon of water costs (it's about a penny, which seems really, really cheap).
This is starting to change. The Week's The Revenge of Water provides a good summary of the potential water problems the world may face in the coming years. Key quote:
"Climate-change models predict more water problems—droughts and floods that will literally encircle the globe in those years. Add to that the economic rise of India and China—modernization dramatically increases water use—and it’s clear that we are entering a new era of water scarcity, not just in traditionally dry places like the U.S. Southwest and the Middle East, but in places we think of as water-wealthy, like Atlanta and Melbourne."
The New York Times Drought: A Creeping Disaster provides a more ominous look at potential water problems. It talks about the aridification of the U.S. Southwest. The key quote comes from Columbia University's Richard Seager, who explains:
"You don’t say, ‘The Sahara is in drought.’ It’s a desert. If the models are right, then the Southwest will face a permanent drying out.”
But there's also good news. One amazing statistic is that the U.S. uses less water today than it did in 1980. This is not per capita, but in absolute terms. Again from The Week:
"U.S. water use peaked in 1980, at 440 billion gallons a day for all purposes. Today, the country uses less than 410 billion gallons a day .... Most of the change has come in water use by power plants and farms. Farmers today use 15 percent less water than they did in 1980, and produce a 70 percent larger harvest."
Another amazing stat is about 16% of water pumped into mains in the U.S. leaks away. Fixing these leaks seem like a relatively easy way to improve our water use efficiency.
Water is not an important issue for most small businesses today. But water is going to get more expensive, which means efforts to conserve and use water more efficiently will increase. Like the broader opportunities being created in clean tech, it's likely there will be more water related small business opportunities in the future.