Water === oil?- 2 mins
Saudi Arabia is a country with an interesting history. One that goes back millennia. Today, much of its recent success is the result of the vast oil supplies that sit underneath the lands that the ruling family “curated” in the early 20th century.
Today, the West imports oil from Saudi Arabia and similarly fossil fuel rich countries. We need lights, transport and warmth amongst a whole host of other petroleum based things. It makes sense to buy a resource like this, providing that the purchase volume trends are heading downwards over time. It would be foolish to bet on this resource being around forever, on account of it being finite.
Periodically, the amount of water easily available to people living in desert regions must also seem finite. As a species, we can do amazing things with water in the desert. Just look at the story of the Nabataeans of Petra. They thrived in a land with no meaningful, or at least obviously accessible, water source. Ultimately, this was one of their best defenses against conquerors for quite some time. Without the collective knowledge of water harvesting, storage and underground pipe network of the nations people, complete occupation was kept at arms length for much longer than it might otherwise have been. Fragile water security was a decisive factor in national security.
It’s understood that energy security has played a role in a good chunk of conflicts the West has partaken in for a couple of generations. Increasingly, water security is playing a significant role in many conflicts not involving the West. What will they look like when they both overlap? The naturally energy rich counties are often the ones with the least secure water supply. The countries with the best water security often have fewer natural energy sources, or at least a smaller variety. It’s bound to happen at some point, to some extent.
Fast forward to a time when water is an even scarcer resource across the Arabian Peninsula then it already is. Arabian nations may want water imported from the West in the same way that we welcome oil and gas onto our shores today. Presumably, at this time we’d be low on certain fossil fuels and declining in power when measured against oil rich counties. We are, some might argue, already seeing energy used as a weapon by some major global exporters.
How’s that going to play out on a global scale?
A straight swap per litre?
Or will the energy rich countries (and their allies) use their newfound military advantage to create a secure source for water? 🤷♀️
This daydream feels a little too Mad Max for me.
I have everything crossed that desalination technology vastly improves in the years to come 🤞
Photo by Rabah Al Shammary