Glennon in New York Times: Distrust of Private-Sector Water Investors Stems from Misunderstanding of the Market

July 22, 2019

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tap faucet running water
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The possibility of water shortages in the future could turn the resource into a precious commodity, creating an opportunity for investors. The New York Times reports that currently, “a small group of traditional mutual funds and exchange-traded funds invest in companies that mainly contribute to the delivery, testing and cleaning of potable water. Those companies stand to grow as governments around the globe strive to stem the expected water shortfalls.” 

University of Arizona Law professor Robert Glennon, one of the nation's preeminent experts on water policy and law, was interviewed and said some distrust of private-sector control of water supplies stems from misunderstandings of what customers pay for and where most fresh water goes.  

“Water may be a gift from God, but God doesn’t give us pipes, and pipes are expensive,” he said.  

Glennon explained how household water accounts for only a small portion of water consumption, about seven percent.  

The rest is used by farms and industry. And they have little incentive to use it prudently because nearly everyone in the United States pays little for water, he said. 

To illustrate our finite and exhaustible supply of water, Glennon compared water supply to a giant milkshake, with each diversion being a straw.  

Glennon is the recipient of two National Science Foundation grants. He serves as an advisor to governments, corporations, think tanks, law firms, and NGOs looking to solve serious challenges around water sustainability and planning. He is author of Unquenchable: America's Water Crisis and What To Do About It, which has become a go-to resource for environmental policy stakeholders nationwide.