Exploring the Future...until we get there

Category: Business of Water

The Dutch and the Garuda

The other day, my friend was looking online at some visually pleasing structures designed solely for the purpose of managing the flow of unwelcome water. She suggested to me that they looked like works of art. I had to agree, even though I imagined that the river they sat in would have been more beautiful still in their absence. I suppose that the trick with all construction whose form follows function is to present them to those forced to stare at them each day in the most palatable aesthetic possible. I think of wind farms and consider that, at times, there’s not much that can be done to “pretty things up.”

That got to me to thinking about the Netherlands, the poppies, windmills, and dikes, and how I keep hearing about Dutch engineering firms staying busy throughout the year and around the world designing the projects that are going to take on the predicted sea levels in the years to come. I wondered why it was that the Netherlands seemed to be dominating the scene as opposed to other countries. Then, after reading up a bit, I realized that, but for human ingenuity, the Dutch geography, left to its own devices, would probably just slip out to sea one day.

Almost the entirety of the country fits cleanly into just three categories: below sea level (more than half of all the land), at sea level, and barely above sea level. Just waking up anywhere in any part of the country would seem to suggest that there must be a constant mindfulness of the sea’s proximity. I also read that the port of Rotterdam is the largest in Europe and very well run. I supposed, then, that, by default, the Dutch probably had some pretty longstanding and firsthand experience in matters of flood control, with time simply adding to the projects they can point to and say, “Yeah…we know how to do that.” These days, water management projects are in no short supply. Dutch engineering standards are in high demand far and wide.

When I discovered what the Dutch are up against where Climate Change is concerned, it is small wonder that the country takes ‘all things water’ as seriously as it does. They are going to get hammered from here on out and on multiple levels ranging from an encroaching sea, land subsidence, the growing unpredictability of weather patterns, threats to ground water resources, shifting coastlines, rising population, and a host of others challenges that keep the policy makers on high alert at all times. The poor people even have to deal with muskrats intent on destroying the very levies holding the water back. It’s a daily ‘cat and mouse’ game that must be played, else the muskrats win (apparently) and the towns flood.

It seems common sense, then, that the Dutch would export their know-how and can-do attitude when it comes to assisting less-experienced countries dealing with their own Climate Change challenges. The Netherlands is home to some of the world’s most top notch engineering firms, involved in hundreds of projects literally all around the world.

When I think of the Netherlands now, I will think of a country fully engaged in solutions. The more I learned, the more I was inspired. These people are truly amazing and I commend them on the efforts being made to ensure, not only that the country, itself, but countries around the world, can enjoy the benefits of an entrepreneurial spirit that might just make a small but size-able dent in the challenges that lie ahead, and for the betterment of all.

With the whispers from another post here in which I alluded to the bundles of money that will be made in the “Climate Change Sector,” here are a few projects I found the Dutch taking on, and in no particular order:

  • Providing technical assistance (this is probably an understatement) and pitching their best preventive medicine as part of New York’s task force in avoiding future disasters caused by the likes of a Hurricane Sandy.
  • To combat rising sea levels, Jakarta is building a sea wall in the shape of a giant mythical bird known as a Garuda. The Dutch and the Indonesians have been working together on similar ambitious projects for years now, but the scale of this one certainly takes the cake.
  • The Dutch Wind Wheel “a wind turbine that generates electricity from wind without moving parts.”
  • The Dutch help South Africa to better manage their water resources through a number of admirable projects (ORIO and King Fisher).

Check out these related posts and Sincere thanks for stopping by!

An Amazing Truth


The Big Biz of Bottled Water

Next time you visit your favorite place to shop for groceries, take a moment and take stock of how much shelf space is taken up by one of our best new friends, Bottled Water. Hey BW! Look at you taking up all that valuable store real estate, and it really wasn’t all that difficult to get you there in the first place. Well, okay…let me break that off-the-cuff remark down a bit. Unlike many other products that you will place in your cart during your visit, water doesn’t come with a list of ingredients, because it’s…well, it’s water, right? The stuff that’s in water is…yeah, water. What’s so hard about that? The label won’t ever read “Two parts Hydrogen, one part Oxygen.” Sure, there are actual labeling requirements for agua, but they don’t need to be discussed here.

Anyway, the question was rhetorical. We know it’s hard to make bottled water, sort of…

You’ve got to have a place to put the water in the bottle, so there’s your factory.

You probably want to set up this facility very close to the source of the water you’re going to bottle, so there’s more to think about right there, and you’ve already bought yourself a boatload of red tape, anyway, so just keep going.

Probably need to get all kinds of permits, audits, studies, licenses, environmental impact statements, you know the drill. I guess you’ll have to be big biz before you ever get started. I’m guessing this aint no enterprise for the little guy.

Have to figure out how you’re going to purify your product…reverse osmosis, distillation, deionization, ultra violet light. Gosh, sounds expensive, but you’ve got a few attorneys you’re working with.

Run all that paperwork past the proper authorities, figure out where your market is, get those distribution trucks revved up, and boom, watch the profits come rolling in.

Okay, I don’t really have a clue about the nuts and bolts of bottling water, but I don’t need to because that’s not the point of this post. I want you, my reader, to think about a few key points here.

First, reach back into your memory banks and try to recall the first time you ever heard of “bottled water.” Give up? Me too.

First time you bought a bottled water? Drawing a blank again?

First time you wondered about all those plastic bottles getting tossed in the landfill and feeling queasy?

First time you realized that you were hooked on the whole idea of bottled water…preferred it over tap, no matter what…liked the way the bottle looked in your hand, in your cooler, in your status-driven life?

First time you confessed that without bottled water as an option in any given day, you’d be lost, unsure of how you would even feel if you had to take your repurposed coffee mug and hold it under the faucet in your company’s breakroom. It just feels so wrong (the smell of chlorine in your nostrils makes you feel small and insignificant!)

We probably can’t remember any of these instances mentioned above because bottled water has become so pervasive in the American psyche that we simply can’t recall when it wasn’t there within easy reach, no matter where we were or what we were doing. Bottled water is here to stay…for now.

For me, I have a vague memory of Perrier water being somewhat of a novelty on the shelves maybe going back as far as the mid-1980s. It’s French (sort of, but I’ll let you research the parent company…hint, I think it’s Nestle), it’s green, it’s carbonated, and I believe it to still carry at least some of the prestige it once held. After all (and maybe I’m wrong), does the common Jane or John on the street reach for a Perrier when they want something to quench their thirst while they jog or bike or lift or whatever? No, it’s going to be something cheap, something they may not even be loyal to. As long as it serves the purpose of rehydrating, they’re good to go. Plus, it had better be encased in plastic, because glass doesn’t fare well on concrete (I’m always behind the times…apparently you can get the “french” stuff in plastic, too. They should market it as Perrier PET, but maybe then the symbol of superiority suffers).

Anyway, I’ll bet you can rattle off at least 10 different brands of the crystal clear elixir without even trying, can’t you? And why wouldn’t you? We use it all day, every day, right? I personally do not care in the least what the brand on the bottle is, as long as the price is right. Bottled water isn’t cool anymore, it’s just necessary, and there’s the point of my post.

The cheapest bottle of the stuff you can find (and I’m even including the gallon jugs stocked in any major retail chain anywhere across the country, and on sale, too) is still going to be much much…much more expensive than the equivalent amount coming out of your own tap. Welcome to the big business of bottled water. Did you ever think we could be so bamboozled?

Question: have you ever been at a zoo, amusement park, concert, or whatever type of event you care to name, and found yourself willingly paying upwards of $3-5 for a standard size bottle of water (16 ounces, give or take), even in plain sight of a drinking fountain, offering essentially the same product for FREE? Why?

How did we get here? Marketing. How do we get out? Three options to consider:

  • The market naturally dries up because demand fizzles away (least likely of the three).
  • Government intervenes, slapping big fines on any bottled water company that doesn’t provide alternatives to customers for getting their insatiable water fix, like refilling stations, re-usable bottles, or proof of corporate marketing campaigns that emphasize the importance of recycling (nah…companies probably think it’s cheaper just to pay the fine and move on…profit margins are huge, and don’t let them tell you otherwise).
  • The choice to purchase bottled water will be taken away from you by factors much bigger than you could ever imagine, involving global forces that may likely become more desperate, more militant by the year.

It may not only be oil that countries go to war over in the near future, but water, as well. If that starts to happen, it seems to me that our love affair with bottled water may come at a price that’s much too high to pay.

Thanks for stopping by!


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