supply of freshwater is abundant, and capable to meet human demands
for many years. Yet regional water scarcity is becoming a major
concern today. International water marketing is one method for improving
the distribution problem, by transporting water to those areas experiencing
shortages from places with a water surplus.
such as Argentina, Chile, Mexico, and the United States are already
involved in water markets. Transportation of bulk water outside
political boundaries, which is very rare (with bottled water as
an exception), is already taking place in certain areas. Austria
and Turkey export water to Mediterranean countries, and Israel sells
water to areas with extreme water scarcity problems. The Bahamas
and Cyprus are other countries that import water from outside sources.
customers can pay, corporations are willing to send vast amounts
of water across the ocean. Massive pipelines, supertankers, and
giant sealed water bags, that carry freshwater long distances for
commercial sale, are being used. The World Bank says, "One
way or another, water will soon be moved around the world as oil
is now." The mass movement of bulk water could have catastrophic
environmental impacts. Some proposed projects would reverse the
flow of mighty rivers in Canada's north, the environmental impact
of which would be greater than China's Three Gorges Dam (Who
Owns Water, 2002).
- Exporting bulk water
by supertanker, especially from North America, is increasing.
Water shipments are sent in huge supertankers, like the tankers
used to ship oil. Supertankers can transport both water and oil.
“As Canadian water specialist Richard Bocking explains, their
tankers would empty oil on one leg of the trip and carry water
home on the return voyage. The first tanker shipment of water
out of the United States, says the assistant general manager of
Anchorage Water and Wastewater Utility in Alaska, may have been
in a tanker leased by the Japanese trading conglomerate Mitsubishi.
In 1995, this Mitsubishi-leased tanker shipping petroleum by-products
overseas loaded a couple million gallons of water from Eklutna,
Alaska, for transport back to Japan.” (The
Global Trade in Water)
Supertankers shipping bulk
water would likely operate year-round, along the Pacific coast. They
would move on tight schedules through untrustworthy seas and could
leave serious ecological damage. “These huge tankers,” says Bocking,
“would wind their way through tortuous coastal waterways, maneuvering
around islands and reefs in an area where no well-developed marine
traffic management system exists . . . Pods of killer whales move
regularly through these waters. Along with commercial and sports fisheries,
spawning for almost the entire commercial oyster industry of coastal
B.C. is located here.” For Bocking, the danger lies in the fact that
the massive fuel tanks of these supertankers “are full of bunker C
fuel, the worst possible grade of oil in environmental terms. With
currents, winds, rocks, and reefs intersecting with tight ship schedules,
the stage is set for tragedy on a grand scale.” (The
Global Trade in Water)
Bulk water exports are
also an ecological threat. Ecosystems would be disrupted, the natural
habitat would be damaged, biodiversity would be reduced, and aquifers
and underground water system will get dry because of the draining
of bulk water from lake and river basins. Also, supertankers would
especially deplete water supplies along ocean coasts, since they
cannot venture inland.
- The Manavgat River
basin is secure and all necessary measures will be taken to guarantee
the safety and quality of water. A pipeline would be the most desirable
way of bringing water from Turkey to Israel, but it is impossible
politically because a pipeline would have to pass through Syria,
which is an adversary of Israel.
- Purpose-built supertankers
will be used to send the Turkish water to Israel. Even though
the Turkish water would satisfy less than 5 percent of Israel's
water needs, the water will be used for emergencies such as droughts.
Israel has three immediate options to meet the problem of increasing
water demand and irregular water supply. It can import water from
Turkey, at a cost of 80 cents per cubic meter, it could desalinate
seawater, at a cost of 52-55 cents per cubic meter, or recycle
used water via wastewater processing plants, for 35 cents per
- Recycling wastewater
is the option with the lowest cost. “Israeli water-processing
plants have been operating for thirty years in the Haifa area
and in Dan, south of Tel Aviv. The volume of recycled water is
estimated at 270 mcm a year, and could reach 620 mcm by 2020”
Water to Israel, 2003 ). The problem with the recycled water
is that it is not considered drinking-water quality and is used
by Israel only for industrial purposes.
desalination is done on a limited and local scale in Israel.
Again, it can be cost-effective, but the desired drinking quality
has not been reached and has environmental consequences such
as leaving salt residue. “According to Shlomi Dinar, a Johns
Hopkins University-based expert on international water issues,
brackish water from boreholes is another viable option, as it
can reach drinking quality when desalinated. At a cost of 33-42
cents per cubic meter, brackish water is relatively inexpensive
to desalinate. However, Israel can at best procure 50 mcm drinking
water annually through this method, and the country therefore
has to look elsewhere to quench its thirst” (Turkish
Water to Israel, 2003).
- “Some Israeli officials
have long been skeptical of importing water from Turkey. Israel's
Ministry of Finance, for example, has been opposed to it on grounds
of cost. The Israeli Water Commission has been lukewarm at best
to the idea, generally preferring desalination and recycling.
According to rumors in 2002, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon
said at the time that Israel would not buy water from Turkey since
it would cost Israel less to desalinate its own water -- instead
offering Turkey $147 million compensation in installments for
the investment it had already made in the water export project.
Turkish officials refused the offer and repeated Ankara's position
that the project was also a political matter. Now Israeli officials
say the water desalination projects will continue and the imported
water from Turkey will serve as an additional source for emergencies
such as droughts” (Turkish
Water to Israel, 2003).
- If international
water markets further develop, Canada would be a central subject
of focus, with 20 percent of the world's freshwater. Canada could
export huge quantities of freshwater around the world. Another
huge focus would be Alaska. Corporations will be the ones responsible
for transporting bulk amount of water to customers.
- Western Canada Water,
Snow Cap Water, White Bear Water, and Multinational Resources
were all companies who were planning to transport water by supertankers
along the Pacific coast. Yet, they were banned by British Columbia
in 1993. “One project was to involve a Texas company prepared
to pay for a fleet of 12 to 16 of the world’s largest supertankers
(500,000 deadweight tons) to operate around the clock. Under one
contract, the annual volume to be shipped to California was equivalent
to the total annual water consumption of the City of Vancouver
Owns Water, 2002) But the export ban may be reversed, and
open the floodgates for bulk water shipments by supertanker down
the Pacific Coast again, due to a change of provincial government
in British Columbia.
- Global H2O is another
Canadian-based company, which has signed a 30-year agreement to
export 18.2 billion U.S. gallons (about 69 billion liters) of
glacial water per year from Alaska to China. Global has formed
a “strategic alliance” with the Signet Shipping Group, a U.S.
company based in Houston, Texas, which has a fleet of supertankers
in order to transport the bulk water to China. Each Signet supertanker
(50,000 deadweight tons) is expected to carry over 330 million
liters (about 87 million US gallons). Global also has a contract
with Singapore. “But to supply Singapore on a regular basis,”
said Global’s CEO Fred Paley in June 1998, “we are looking at
converting single-hull supertankers which the oil industry will
be decommissioning” (International
Water Marketing, 2001).
- World Water S.A.
is another company that has a fleet of supertankers. This company
includes Japan’s NYK Line (Nippon Yusen Kaisha), the world’s largest
shipping company, operating over seven hundred vessels.
- Both companies can
use supertankers to ship Alaskan fresh water supplies to China
and the Middle East, but they are not allowed to transport bulk
water to Los Angeles or San Diego due to the Jones Act.
exports are related to the issue of to how water is viewed,
either as a commodity or as a basic human right. Both extremes
are difficult to analyze, since water tends to lead to wasteful
and inefficient use if we disregard the monetary attributes.
On the other hand, the increase in water’s economic value can
result in exploitation by those concerned only with profiting
from others' deficiencies. Supertankers can be very beneficial
when exporting water to those countries in need, but it can
be harmful to the environment.Corporations and different countries
are starting to trade globally in water, and with freshwater
shortages becoming common wil become more sensitive in the years
Water Marketing: http://www.waterbank.com/Newsletters/nws37.html
Trade in Water: http://www.thirdworldtraveler.com/Water/Global_Trade_BG.html
Water to Israel: http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/watch/policywatch/policywatch2003/782.htm