<a href="http://gmagazine.com.au/blogs/leon#">The Business of Green</a>

The Business of Green

Money matters in the green world, by Leon Gettler.

Is water the new oil?

water from a barrel

Credit: Flickr

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People who believe that oil is the most precious liquid on earth should think again. It's actually water. Indeed, with countries around the world facing water shortages, it's been said that water is now the new oil.

What are the best solutions to the problems of chronic drought? What about the costs to the community and business?

With parts of Australia now receiving solid rainfalls, the debate is now on as to whether governments should pull back on desalination and focus on storm water harvesting and recycling instead.

The question is whether rain water tanks would be enough. Certainly, there is evidence suggesting that rain water tanks might actually increase Australia's greenhouse gas emissions.

Experts say rain water tanks might save water but they're energy intensive.

Similarly, the $30 billion for water infrastructure over the next 10 years, which includes the construction of desalination plants, will also increase greenhouse gas emissions. Not exactly good for fighting climate change. Critics also say desalination plants can have a devastating impact on the physical environment.

A report (pdf here) from the Water Services Association of Australia (WSAA) warns that recycled water could push up emissions.

The report says: "For instance, the requirement to increase sewage treatment from secondary to tertiary standard results in a four fold increase in energy consumption at the treatment stage. New regulatory approaches should weigh up any incremental benefit of increased effluent quality regulations against the cost of incremental increases in greenhouse gas emissions."

At the same time, the report warns that water prices in Australia's capital cities are
likely to increase in real terms by between 50 per cent and 100 per cent over the short term. That's going to create all sorts of affordability issues for consumers and business.

So it boils down to a difficult problem: how do we save water, or create more of it, without destroying the environment or sending us broke?

So what are the best solutions here? Tanks and recycling? Desalination plants? And how much extra should we be paying for water? Tell us what you think.