Thoughts on Water

Earth is a closed system. Nothing escapes into space that is not launched at escape velocity. Therefore, the water we have is the water we had and the water we will have. Other than the very small amounts of water that get "lost" through chemical reactions converting those molecules of H20 into something else, all of the water that we "use" stays with us.

Unlike oil where once we use it up, it is no longer in the same form, water more or less stays the same and thermodynamics gives us a clue to this as there is no energy to be had from water and therefore no conversion of matter into energy no matter what we do with water.

We "have" more or less the same amount of water we had a million years ago and we will have the same a million years from now unless we cart it out into space.

The issue is what form water comes in and this issue is all a "parts-per-billion" issue meaning that in some cases water is mixed up with salt (in fact 97% of all water on Earth comes in that form) and in other cases it is mixed with poop and we call it sewage. 

What we need is water without those other things mixed in and this problem is not a huge one from the standpoint of science and technology. Desalinization is not advanced science and tertiary wastewater treatment produces potable water of which, comparatively speaking, we need very little (we use more for showering, washing cars or watering lawns in volume terms). 

So what does this mean - first, all the alarmist "running out of water" or "World War 3 will start over water" notions are fundamentally misguided - we have plenty of water if we have enough capital to convert it to a form that we like to use.

Second, even though one might think that the fact this is not an insurmountable problem makes water less interesting than other clean-tech areas where bigger technological breakthroughs are possible (and necessary) this is not the case. Addressable problems (addressable markets) one can "work" are in fact the best investment opportunities because something is sure to get done as opposed to waiting for a breakthrough which may or may not ever come.

Comments

Ken Barker said…
Hi Miljenko,

I am intrigued by your blog and am looking forward to reading your view points! Your point on water is very interesting, but is it not similar to food, in that it is a case of distribution? While others starve the rest of the world throws away food - is that not the same case with water? Wars are fought, (physically or economically), partly due to wanting what the other party has that you do not. The opportunity then would be in the redistribution of resources, or the investment in water/food creation.

Good luck and I look forward to reading more!
Best,
Ken.
Miljenko Horvat said…
I agree Ken that with food the issue is not overall availability and not even of the food already produced. Farmers in the US are getting paid NOT to grow anything as they are so productive that if all the available land were used, the prices of crops would collapse. As with water it is not just distribution, it is also the availability of capital as in many places in Africa a whole lot of food could be grown if there was enough capital to invest in equipment, fertilizer and other inputs. Absent that, the bandaid solution is applied of shipping in food supplies.

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