Approximately one in eight, or 884 million people lack access to safe water supplies, and less than 1% of the world’s fresh water (or about 0.007% of all water on earth) is readily accessible for direct human use.
The World Health Organization states that one fifth of the world’s population (more than 1.1 billion people) live in areas where water is physically scarce. The UN estimates absolute water scarcity will soon affect 1.8 billion people by 2025. This implies that available supplies will not fully meet demand in the affected countries and regions.
Investors can find ways to put money to work in companies making efforts to meet the challenges of this growing scarcity.
Nalco (NYSE:NLC) provides water treatment and process improvement products, and operates in 150 countries with over 11,500 employees. In 2009 sales exceeded $3.7 billion. Last year Warren Buffett’s company bought 8.7 million shares of Nalco Holding Co., worth $100.8 million as of Dec. 31.
There are indexes and mutual funds involved in the water arena, including: Robeco SAM Sustainable Water Fund (SMWNX), The Water Infrastructure Fund (MUTF:KWINX) and The Power Shares Water Resources Portfolio ETF (NASDAQ:PHO). All three identify companies that focus on water and water-related issues.