What’s Going On Here?
Could water, one of the world’s most abundant resources, ever be more expensive than one of its rarest, oil? The short answer: Yes, it already is. The average price of unleaded petrol in the UK is around £1.20 per litre. With the average price of bottled water at a petrol station (gas-station if you’re ????????) being around £2 per litre.
What Does This Mean?
It’s all to do with context. One of the worlds most expensive bottles of water (Kona Nigari) costs $536 per litre, and claims to be more thirst quenching and help you lose weight…hmmmm. But it’s unlikely that you are going to have that on tap at home.Since the worlds first oil well was drilled in 1859, our societies have been built and powered by oil. The price has sky-rocketed as our ‘need for speed’ has increased. But all the while, our dependence on oil is far outstripped by our physical need for water.About 70% of the earth’s surface is covered in water, but 97% of it is saltwater, unfit for human use. Saltwater cannot be used for drinking, crop irrigation or most industrial uses. Of the remaining 3% of the world’s water resources, only about 1% is readily available for human consumption. And climate change is definitely not helping this.Keeping the price of water down is key to making access to water a human right, rather than a commodity blindly following the Law of Supply and Demand. But despite it being so abundant, do we actually have enough water to go around?
Why Should We Care?
It may read like the plot of Quantum of Solace (James Bond film), but it is already happening. Three consecutive years of record low rainfall have caused water levels of major supply dams in Cape Town to plunge.Home to almost four million people, the city is the second largest in South Africa. Local authorities have since warned of “Day Zero,” when Cape Town’s taps will run dry and residents will resort to queuing at standpipes for water.
This week, Day Zero was pushed back from April 2018 to August 27 2018, and may be avoided altogether (this year), after Cape Town’s population successfully lived on just 50 litres of water a day and will continue to do so. By comparison, the average UK consumer uses some 150 litres of water per day. Cape Town reduced its water consumption by flushing toilets just once a day and reducing water use for hygiene, meaning showers of no more than 10 litres, or even going without washing.
The official guide for Cape Town residents on how to ‘spend’ their water is above. Think you could hack it?