Water we doing? or how fishermen became hairstylists

          Lets start with a few easy observations made during the Somkran (Thai new year) period:

          1. On April 13 th 2014, The Thai Newspaper The Nation showed a 3 column article with a picture of a depleting water reservoir somewhere out of Bangkok, stating that currently an estimated 500’000 Thais are effected by the drought.
          On the next, adjacent page, titled “1000 words” several pictures covered a full page showing Thais and Tourists in various states of water battles due to the annual Somkran (Lunar New year) festival.

          2. A search on The Nation’s website by typing “water shortage” lists 7 articles in March 2014 alone (!) about on-going or predicted water shortages in Thailand and Asean.

          3. In Phuket, Thailand, the provincial government has raised the cost for a cubic meter of water (1000 litres) by 50%, to up to 21,5 THB/m3. Effective since January 1 st, 2014.

          4. During Somkran festivities, participants where charged up to 10 THB for the refilling of a five litre water gun at Khao Shan Road. That is an ~29000% increase of the currently charged water price/liter by the Bangkok Municipal Administration.

          Now, how about 3 simple questions?

          1. What is the price per m3 of water, inclusive cleaning charge, your company is paying?
          2. How much water in m3 does your company utilize per month?

          And finally

          3. How well does your company perform in water consumption per unit produced or service sold (either in m3 or $) if you compare your company to your top 5 competitors?

          If you are not involved in business, dear reader you can simply substitute “your company” with “your apartment” or “your family”.

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          Or continue reading…. : )

          I leave it up to each individual reader to decide by him/herself how many correct answers to the above questions it requires to establish sight and furthermore how much vision you accredit yourself.
          My subjective viewpoint is that if I know the answers to all three questions, it shows a certain amount of sight. Should then, in addition, I be able to list a few measurable objectives which I am planning to achieve over the coming 6 months in relevance to the 3 questions, vision beyond sight is ascertained.

          “Worse than being blind is he/she who has sight but no vision.” (Helen Keller 1880 – 1968, an US activist whose paternal lineage can be traced to Casper Keller, a native of Switzerland and relative to the first teacher of the deaf in Zuerich)

          We have so far established that already 100 years ago a blind American woman with Swiss roots knew a lot about “vision” and perhaps that you do or do not know much about the water costs of your business and key competitors. This is hardly newsworthy or reasons enough to write an article for this blog. And, what has it to do with fishermen becoming hairstylists anyway??

          How fishermen became hairstylists.

          Yes, what happened to those fishermen?
          Those fishermen ran out of fish. Yes, and to be exact it happened in the late 90’s in Newfoundland after steady fish harvests in the early 90’s, fish (Cod) stocks suddenly collapsed. It turned out that nobody saw this coming because fish-finding technologies became ever more effective until – well you heard it – no more fish was left to be found. With an oversupply of fishermen the US government started to train some of those jobless fishermen to become hairstylists because there was no more fish to be fished. (Source: Eaarth by Bill McKibben, p.96)

          The conclusion here is that none of those fishermen or their managers ever asked themselves where all this fish is coming from respectively they did not ask themselves if their actions where sustainable. The definition of sustainable in this context would be: Supporting ones needs while leaving enough for future generations (e.g. your children and grand-children) to support their needs.

          Technology vs. vision

          Global warming, Climate change, depletion of resources, peak oil, destruction of biodiversity, overpopulation and subsequent economic collapse are topics that are pretty unattractive to discuss. These topics do however appear on an increasing frequency even in mainstream media. (Hint: see the beginning of this blog)
          Whenever an eloquent discussion about the environment takes place the following two opposing believe circles can be discovered. First, those who believe in technological salvation and second and those who preach a paradigm shift in what and how much we value.
          Which one shall we support?
          In order to represent the vision of my company Daniel Koeppel Associates Co. Ltd., I recommend: “One without the other is ineffective”

          The boomerang effect

          “Boomerang effect” and “positive feedback” are two expressions with the same meaning. Environmentalists often use them when they want to explain the results of technological solutions to real world problems.
          e.g. the technological solutions applied to decreasing amounts of fish caught were that ever more satellite based technology as well as every bigger ships were used. Then the decreasing amounts of fish caught stabilized, until one day, they collapsed completely.

          Water footprint

          There is a connection to water in all this. The parallels to water are not commonly known.
          Everything you consume has a water footprint. For example a t-shirt is made from cotton. That cotton needs water to grow. Therefor the water footprint of a t-shirt is approximately 2700 litres of water.
          Lets look at meat. 200 kg of boneless beef meat has a water footprint of 3’100’000 litres! (Source: Arjen Hoekstra, 2011, waterfootprint.org)
          And finally:
          “Based on the available published water-use information, we calculate that in 2009 the water footprint (WF) of U.S. electricity was approximately 42 gallons per kilowatt hour (kWh) produced.“ (source: Burning Our Rivers: The Water Footprint of Electricity, By Wendy Wilson, Travis Leipzig & Bevan Griffiths-Sattenspiel, p.5)

          Water you going to do?

          The absence or oversupply of water has a devastating impact, not just on a business but also on our lives. Everyone living and working in Bangkok, Koh Samui and Phuket can agree to, based on occurrences over the past 3 years.
          How well is your business adapting to future water risks and/or how do you mitigate for those water risks?

          About the Author:

          Mr. Daniel Koeppel hails from Widnau (SG). He lives in South East Asia since 1992 and describes himself as a full-blood hotelier with a passion for the environment. A passion solidified with a master degree in environmental management and technology from the FHNW in Muttenz (BL).
          Daniel is the managing founder of Daniel Koeppel Associates Co. Ltd., an environmental sustainability specialist for the hospitality and tourism industry. The company’s mission is to support hotel owners and managers to change the business paradigm towards one where environmental sustainability is an integrated part and not a separate one. He can be reached via below.

          Daniel Koeppel

          Daniel is an environmental sustainability specialist with a hospitality background. He is passionate in supporting visionary hotel companies wishing to increase their environmental sustainability know how and solutions. Contact us now for a non-committing assessment!

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