By Gus Lubin
Citi economist Willem Buiter tells clients to invest in the water industry which will soon become hotter than oil (via FT Alphaville):
I expect to see in the near future a massive expansion of investment in the water sector, including the production of fresh, clean water from other sources (desalination, purification), storage, shipping and transportation of water. I expect to see pipeline networks that will exceed the capacity of those for oil and gas today.
I see fleets of water tankers (single-hulled!) and storage facilities that will dwarf those we currently have for oil, natural gas and LNG. I see new canal systems dug for water transportation, similar in ambition and scale to those currently in progress in China, linking the Yangtze River in the South to the Yellow River in the arid north.
I also hope and expect that these new canal ventures will be designed and implemented with a greater awareness of the environmental and social impact of such mega-projects. India will have to engage in investment on a scale comparable to that seen today in China to produce clean water in the best locations and transport it to where the household, industrial and agricultural users are.
Water as an Asset Class
I expect to see a globally integrated market for fresh water within 25 to 30 years. Once the spot markets for water are integrated, futures markets and other derivative water-based financial instruments — puts, calls, swaps — both exchange-traded and OTC will follow. There will be different grades and types of fresh water, just the way we have light sweet and heavy sour crude oil today. Water as an asset class will, in my view, become eventually the single most important physical-commodity based asset class, dwarfing oil, copper, agricultural commodities and precious metals.