“Water is the driving force of all nature.”

This was Leonardo Da Vinci’s conclusion in the 16th century and, it is even truer today. However, few then could have predicted how precious water would become worldwide. The industrial revolution, population growth explosions, especially in Asia and India, and pollution have made access to potable water a struggle to the point of crisis for millions throughout the world. And there wasn’t much of it to go around in the first place.

Water is not everywhere

An often quoted statistic, but worth repeating here, is that 70% of the earth is made up of water. However, 97% of it is salt water. The remaining 3% has the potential to be drinkable or usable for irrigation and industry. But it gets worse. Only 1% of the potable water globally is accessible, the rest is mostly frozen in the polar ice caps. What does that mean for humans? It means that more than 780 million people do not have clean water to drink… or 1 out of every 9 people!

Is a water crisis pending?

Is a global water crisis pending? We want to hear your thoughts. But consider this… Michael Burry, the man portrayed in the 2015 Oscar-winning film “The Big Short” who first predicted the US mortgage crisis of 2008, is now investing in water. “I started looking at investments in water about 15 years ago. Fresh, clean water cannot be taken for granted. And it is not — water is political, and litigious.” A few startling facts indicate that a crisis may already be here: 

  • Half of the world’s hospital beds are filled with people suffering from a water-related disease. 
  • Globally we use 70% of our water sources for agriculture and irrigation, and only 10% on domestic uses. 
  • The United Nations estimates that Sub-Saharan Africa alone loses 40 billion hours per year collecting water; the same as an entire year’s labor in all of France! Source: https://thewaterproject.org/water_stats
Image: The Pinkerton Risk Wheel

Water and security: The Risk Wheel

April is Earth Month, highlighted by the 46th annual Earth Day celebration on April 22. Today, we start a series of blog posts that looks at water from a risk perspective. Water is a human issue that also impacts businesses and their bottom lines. And it affects security. Increasingly, as companies expand to new global markets, a major factor and concern is access to clean water. 

Using Pinkerton’s risk wheel, we will examine water from different risk quadrants and give examples of how the water crisis is not only affecting how we live but how we work. Our first Water and Security post starts with Hazard and Event Risks, examining the impact water access has on fire suppression. While here in the US, we rely on relatively easy access to water in the event of a fire emergency, that is far from the case globally, including China. Access this post for the other posts in the series as they are published.

Published April 18, 2016