Water you going to do?

Why fishermen became hairstylists?

Daniel Koeppel Photo


  1. What is the price per m3 of water, inclusive cleaning charge, your company is paying?
  2. How much water in m3/guest-night does your company utilize per month?
  3. How well does your company perform in water consumption per product produced or guest-night sold (either in m3 or $) if you compare your company to your top 5 competitors? 

Are you able to answer above 3 simple water related questions?

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

I leave it up to each individual reader to decide by him/herself how many correct answers to the above questions it requires. Sight does not equal vision. 

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 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”. That you do or do not know much about the water costs of your business and your key competitors. This is hardly newsworthy or reasons enough to write an article for this blog. 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.

“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; those who preach a paradigm shift in what and how much we value. “

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 text)

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?

Following the fashion of Switzerland as a neutral country as well as to represent the vision of my company Daniel Koeppel Associates Co. Ltd., I recommend: “One without the other is ineffective”

Boomerang effect, positive feedback

“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 to decreasing amounts of fish caught were that ever more satellite based technology as well as every bigger ships where used. Hence the decreasing amounts of fish caught stabilized, until one day they collapsed completely.

Water footprint

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. So the water footprint of a t-shirt is approximately 2700 litres of water.  Lets look at beef 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 Jakarta, Bali, Koh Samui or Phuket can agree to, based on occurrences over the past 5 years. 

How well is your business adapting to future water risks and how do you mitigate for those water risks? Where and how will you start acting?

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