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[FOUNTAIN]Water is a golden resource

July 16,2003
Man’s use of gold has gone on for a long enough time to have been recorded in the Book of Genesis in the Bible. Some scholars identify gold as the second metal discovered by mankind after bronze. Gold was a driving force for world trade before the age of industrialization.
Both Marco Polo’s adventure and Columbus’s voyage were undertaken to obtain gold and spices from the East. The development of mercantilism in modern Europe was promoted by the use of gold and silver in trade.
After the Industrial Revolution, a “black gold” emerged. It was oil, the first liquid every country competed to acquire to increase its manufacturing power. The bloody wars for petroleum produced a cartel called the “seven sisters,” the transnational oil companies, which enjoy prosperity now.
In recent times, another new gold has appeared. It is “blue gold,” that is, water. “Blue Gold” is the name of a book by Maude Barlow, a Canadian ecologist, and her associates. They assert that water is no less important than petroleum as a resource to develop industry, not to mention for the survival of mankind. They also warn that transnational companies have already started to take control of water resources.
Water is an indispensable factor for modern industry. There is a statistic that says 400,000 liters (105,668 gallons) of water are needed to make a car. A large amount of deionized water is used to make computers. The U.S. computer industry is estimated to use 1.5 trillion liters of water and produces 300 billion liters of wastewater per year.
There is reason for multinational corporations to increase their investment in water. Vivendi Universal of the United States, primarily a media company, Suez Group of France and RWE Group of Germany are regarded as the leaders in the water resource industy.
Vivendi puts more than half of its investment in social overhead capital into its water resources. RWE has Thames Water, the largest private waterworks company in the United Kingdom, and American Waterworks Co. under its umbrella. The three major water companies hold most patent rights and know-how in the industry, earning substantial royalties. Analysts say 300 million people in 150 countries are under the influence of these three multinational companies. Thus we have to renew our understanding of the importance of liquid gold.


by Kim Seok-hwan

The writer is an editorial writer of the Joongang Ilbo.


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