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QZ&A

Water is valuable but its price is low—and it’s fueling a crisis

Shasta Lake, 100 feet (30 meters) below its normal levels in 2014.
REUTERS/Robert Galbraith
Water’s value isn’t reflected in its price.

One of the most-influential players at water’s intersection with business and investment is neither a business nor an investor, it’s an NGO.

The World Wildlife Fund, an organization devoted to preserving the biodiversity of rivers and wetlands, boasts a team of 500 people in 60 countries that spends much of its time studying business’s impact on water, and vice-versa. It runs one of the world’s most-used corporate water-risk filters and produces detailed reports on the role of corporations in water-quality and –quantity issues.

The point man for those efforts is Stuart Orr, a Geneva-based Brit who in a previous life schlepped around rice fields in west Africa and Asia working on water-related issues. Today he’s the manager of WWF’s freshwater team, where he cajoles corporate leaders and investors to become more-active water managers.

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