Green

Water: The most undervalued resource

April 13, 2010: 9:52 PM ET

Water...it sustains all life.

Yet consider this: Worldwide, 80 countries suffer from water shortages, including highly productive agricultural areas in northern China, the western United States, and northwest India.

Four thousand children under the age of five die each day from water-born diseases. Almost 40% of all the water used in agriculture - the biggest consumer of water by far - is wasted.

But only 1% of venture capital money is going into efforts to alleviate the water shortage.

The key to changing that, say many experts, is to raise the price.

"The notion that there's an inherent right to water makes investment challenging," Will Sarni, head of the sustainability consulting firm Domani, said Tuesday during a panel at Fortune's Brainstorm Green conference.

'"It is a human right," said panelist Kevin McGovern, chairman of the Water Initiative, a business that brings water purification systems to homes and organizations worldwide. "But you can't have it for free."

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