11/28/11 Gaithersburg, Marylan – I was in Bangkok while the floods were raging. I also visited Cambodia. The floods were in the news there as well. Though it did not affect Phnom Penh, where I was, the remote villages were dealing with a lot of water.
That’s the curious thing about water. There always seems to be either too much of it or not enough. What follows is another look at my favorite commodity and the opportunities of investing in it.
At breakfast at the Raffles in Phnom Penh, I read a story about how Levi Strauss is trying to minimize its water use. A pair of blue jeans will consume over 900 gallons of water in its lifetime. That includes everything from the water to irrigate the cotton crop to multiple washings of the jeans.
The pressure is mounting on Levi, and other companies, to reduce their water footprint. Miners, food companies, tobacco companies and beverage makers all face pressure to use less water. In many places where they operate — such as India or China or Africa — fresh water is in short supply. This forces a re-examination of everything — from favoring drought-resistant crops to creating new ways to sanitize things.
Companies are also looking to use all of this to their advantage in marketing. Imagine idyllic farms in India with a smiling farmer using new efficient irrigation methods financed by Levi Strauss. However it may reflect reality, such an ad would appeal to the feel-good consumers of today.
The one part of the story that caught my eye was on a 15-acre cotton farm some 90 miles west of Mumbai. The farmer uses drip irrigation, a method of delivering water and fertilizer piped through veins spread over his fields. It’s vastly more efficient than flood plain irrigation, as the water gets right where it needs to go. There are also fewer weeds and less need for power, a not small consideration in a country in which periodic blackouts, however brief, are as common as flies. The farmer reports his water use is down 70% since using drip irrigation.
Read more: Water – Still Blue Gold