Thursday, December 28, 2006

Water futures?

After my diatribe the other day, I started thinking seriously about the future of obtaining water on this planet. I'm curious how come we haven't yet seen a futures contract on the delivery of water come into existence. I imagine that someone in the wonderful world of derivatives has considered or maybe even tested such a concept. Maybe water is still too plentiful for this to work now? However, I have the distinct feeling that such a futures contract is not too far off on the horizon, say within 10 years. As water becomes scarcer, Wall Street will inevitably find a way to monetize and hedge that scarcity. Financial engineering at its best!

3 comments: said...

Water is way too cheap in relation to the costs of shipping and distribution (most of the "cost" of water is still in it's movement, not in its production). I think this is probably why it isn't a fungible good that can be hedged. If you want to bet on the cost of a few gigalitres of water in 20 years time, you'd be better off better on the energy costs at that time, as that is what will determine the water price - you can always produce as much water as you want via desalination and ship it anywhere, its just a matter of the cost of the energy involved.

Anonymous said...

I heard a podcast about an excellent water investing opportunity. Without the inevitable crisis that seems to be coming, this stock was quite profitable. It was a pump making company. Seemed like a great opportunity. Now if I can only remember where I heard it...

Khyron said...


I don't expect water to *remain* as cheap as it has been. The energy issues are part of it. Also, water has been disappearing (or rather moving, it seems) from certain parts of the planet. So there may be a time when there are definite water haves and have nots, if it hasn't yet happened.

"Twilight in the Desert" made this very point about Saudi Arabia and their need to desalinate huge amounts of water for their growing population. As the book tells it (IIRC), that process is driven by excess natural gas. However, as oil falls out of favor as the premier transport fuel due to the inexorable upward march of its price, natural gas is next in line for the crown. That means even more energy competition, no? Both a transport and heating fuel, plus its use in petrochemical production processes. And who knows what I forgot. Then what comes next?

Yes, this is exactly how it should be, in a sense. As these prices rise, other forms of energy should become more viable. But how long will it take? How much will they cost? (Petrol products have really high energy density, right? Wind and water, not so much.)

The trend is upward, even if not due to the cost of water itself.

Then what about those places where the water moves from. Again, haves and have nots. I would imagine people will get even more restless about lack of water than lack of oil, especially if not many of them own automobiles.


Yeah, there seem to be a bunch of opportunities in water. Barron's covered some a few months back. Definitely a growth industry, but possibly for less than ideal reasons.

Anyway, I'm just thinking out loud here. I'm no expert. Just a guy with a genetic predisposition to dehydration and a water Sun sign, so I like the wet stuff. A lot.