Imagine waking up one morning, going to the bathroom, turning on the sink tap, and...there is no water! Nothing, just a gurgling noise that does not bode well. You would like to have breakfast, make coffee, or have a cup of tea, but you cannot; there is no water.

You leave the house, and you still haven't gotten used to the sight that appears before your eyes: the trees in front of the house have been dry for some time now; the grass is yellow; in fact, in many places there isn't even a single blade of grass remaining, only dry land. It has hardly rained for years now, the streams are dry, and the river levels are at heights never recorded before. You go to the bar for a coffee, but the story does not change: there is no water.

On your way to work, you notice the huge billboards promoting bottled water. Their prices have skyrocketed, and those of products that require water for their production have also grown exponentially. Everything has increased, from vegetables to milk, bread, and all food products, but also cosmetics, tyres, timber, and plastics—everything. All over the world, people have started fighting each other, trying to take over the water reserves of the luckiest who have a well or even a spring.

We did not understand the essentiality of water until it began running out.

A science fiction film like “Mad Max," you might say. Not really; this is the future that awaits us. Indeed, in some ways, it is already a reality. Do you know how many conflicts are taking place due to the scarcity of water resources? According to the UNESCO report, The United Nations World Water Development Report 2019: “There has been a significant increase in water-related conflicts. Between 2000 and 2009, 94 were registered. Between 2010 and 2018, the number reached 263.” There are 263 wars going on around the world due to water scarcity!

I know it seems strange and unreal—for those of us who are used to turning on the tap at home and using water as if it were the most natural thing in the world—to think that people could kill for water. But we must keep two things in mind: the first is that if no more water arrives at our house for a few days—I'm not saying weeks—we too will go and get it where it is—stealing it, raiding it—who cares? But we can't live without water. The second is that it would be good for us to wake up from the torpor of Western bliss and realise that things around us are changing in previously unimaginable ways and that they will never go back to the way they were before.

Climate change and population growth are causing the water resources at our disposal to be depleted, and this implies two future scenarios. The first is the hoarding of these resources by those who can, and it is certainly neither you nor me, but the world's banks and business groups, as we will see shortly. The second is that, going from being a common good to a consumer good, and, what's more, with a strong demand, water will cost more and more. So, only a few will be able to afford it.

Let us now return to those who have been moving in this sector for some time. Here are a few examples:

In 2008, Goldman Sachs, as part of the annual conference on the "Top Five Risks," defined water as "the oil of the next century," and investors who can ride the infrastructure boom will reap enormous profits. The first to profit from it are precisely those of GS, given that:

  • Already in September 2003, Goldman Sachs had collaborated with the "Blackstone Group" and "Apollo Management" for the purchase of "Ondeo Nalco" (a leading company in the supply of services, processes, and chemical substances aimed at the treatment of waters with more than 10,000 employees and activities in 130 countries) by a French company in the sector, “Suez SA," for 4.2 billion dollars. Incidentally, Suez is one of two French companies, Suez and Vivendi Environment, which alone provide water to 230 million people on the planet.
  • Since 2006, GS has become one of the largest investment fund managers active in infrastructure, including water, and has raised capital equal to ten billion dollars.
  • In July 2012, it successfully purchased “Veolia Water,” which serves 3.5 million people in the southeast of England.

But Goldman Sachs is not the only group making moves in the water sector.

In 2011, the main economist of "Citigroup," Willem Buitler, argued that “water—understood as an asset class—will become, in my opinion, the most important physical commodity and will dwarf oil, copper, agricultural raw materials, and precious metals.”

In November 2007, Citigroup collaborated with HSBC Bank, Prudential, and other smaller partners in the purchase of Kelda (Yorkshire Water), providing water and sewerage services to over 5 million people and 100,000 businesses in the Yorkshire region.

In 2006, “UBS Investment Research," a division of the Swiss “UBS AG," the largest European bank by value of assets, gave the following title to its report, “Q-Series: Water”: “Water shortage: by definition the crisis of the 21st century?” (October 10, 2006). In 2007, UBS, together with "JP Morgan" and "Australia's Challenger Fund," purchased the English "Southern Water" for 4.2 billion.

Credit Suisse recognises water as a “fundamental mega-trend of our time” because the crisis in water supply could cause “serious social risks” in the next 10 years, considering that two-thirds of the world population, by 2025, could find itself living in conditions of water shortage.

Credit Suisse also published its report on water as part of the “Credit Suisse Water Index” (January 21, 2008) and urged investors to “invest in companies oriented towards water production, its conservation, infrastructure for its treatment, and finally to its desalination."

JPMorgan Chase, one of the largest banks in the world, controlled by the Rockefeller family, through its division called “Global Equity Research,” published a 60-page report entitled “Watch Water: A Guide to Assessing Corporate Risks in a Global Thirsty” (1 April 2008).

Furthermore, in 2010, "JP Morgan Asset Management" and "Water Asset Management" made an offer of 275 million dollars for the purchase of "Southwest Water" (Great Britain).

But not only the large global financial groups have understood the importance of the water market for the coming years.

The “Allianz Group” (Germany), together with the “Dresdner Bank AG”, launched the “Global EcoTrends” in 2007, arguing that: “Investments in the water sector offer important opportunities; the increase in oil prices obscures our perception of an even more serious shortage: water. The global water economy requires both multibillion-dollar investments and major modernization. The “Dresdner Bank” sees interesting earning opportunities for investors in this sector with a long-term investment horizon”(Frankfurt, 14 August 2008).

But I could write other examples filling pages and pages with names of banks, insurance companies, or financial managers who are investing in water, such as "Barclays PLC," "Deutsche Bank," "Merrill Lynch," and "Morgan Stanley." Or mutual funds that invest in this sector, such as the “Calvert Global Water Fund," the “PFW Water Fund,” or the “Kinetics Water Infrastructure Advantaged Fund." Or citing the famous investment made by the Bush family, which in 2005/2006 seems to have secured the water reserves of the largest aquifer on the planet, located between Brazil, Bolivia, and Paraguay, with reserves that are said to be sufficient for the next two hundred years for the entire planet.

The importance of "blue gold" is also highlighted by reports from world institutions.

  • To date, one in four people, or two billion people worldwide, do not have safe drinking water. (2021 WHO/UNICEF joint report).
  • 1.4 million people die every year, and 74 million will have their lives shortened by diseases linked to poor water, sanitation, and hygiene. (2022 WHO report).
  • Global water demand (in water withdrawals) is expected to increase by 55% by 2050. (OECD Conference, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, 2012).
  • The global urban population facing water scarcity will potentially double from 930 million in 2016 to between 1.7 and 2.4 billion people in 2050. UN New York Water Conference (March 22–24, 2023).

Perhaps now, considering what has been briefly stated, you will reread the introduction to this article with different eyes. Now it no longer seems like a science fiction film, but what is about to happen to you?

You will have understood that powerful financial lobbies have been preparing for some time to become the owners, if not of water as a chemical element, certainly of the infrastructure that brings it to your home or sells it to you in bottles. And you can be sure that they will sell it to you at increasingly soaring prices.

You have also understood that not only cannot water, such a precious commodity, be left in the hands of private individuals, but also the ways to transport it to your home must be protected as "common goods." Do not think that our politicians will stop this trend towards privatisation because they are already privatising everything possible, regardless of which political party they use as a shield. These gentlemen are in the pay of many of those multinationals and business companies that I listed previously.

Regarding water, with the referendum of June 2011, 26 million citizens sanctioned the public nature of a common good such as water. But despite the result of the referendum in Italy, law 142/1990 for the reform of local authorities is still in force, and as a result, the obligation for municipalities and provinces to build and manage the use of drinking water has ceased. Therefore, with the current legislation, water remains public, but the management service has been opened to private individuals and is provided by public, mixed, or private companies.

I hope you are coming to the realisation that they are taking away the possibility of continuing to live. Because without water, there is no life. And that you understand that no one "will come to save us," but that we must do it ourselves as conscious, critical citizens capable of asserting our rights. Rights are also enshrined in the United Nations Assembly Resolution 64/92 of July 28, 2010, which recognised that "the right to drinking water and sanitation is a human right essential to the quality of life and the exercise of all human rights."

Let us not be so stupid as to permit our laziness and apathy to be the causes of one of the greatest injustices committed against all humanity and, above all, against future generations.