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  • [narrator] Turn on a faucet and clean water rushes out,

  • as much as we want, anytime we want.

  • It's easy to forget that the quest for this

  • has been one of the defining struggles of human history.

  • Civilizations that harnessed water, thrived.

  • The ones that failed... fell.

  • Today, seven in ten people on Earth

  • can count on having running water in their homes.

  • [man] The water flows from the risers to connecting mains,

  • and finally through service connections into each building on the street.

  • [narrator] At least, so they think.

  • Cape Town. It could become the first major city in the world

  • to run out of water.

  • Cape Town, South Africa, is inching closer now to Day Zero.

  • Just 92 days away from having to shut off most water taps

  • because of a severe drought.

  • [narrator] Cape Town is the first major city in the world

  • to plan to indefinitely shut off its water supply.

  • Four million people would stop getting running water.

  • They'd get water rations,

  • and they'd need to line up at city water stations to get it.

  • And it's not just Cape Town.

  • São Paulo, Melbourne, Jakarta, London,

  • Beijing, Istanbul, Tokyo, Bangalore,

  • Barcelona and Mexico City

  • will all face their own Day Zero in the next few decades,

  • unless their water use radically changes.

  • There are perceptions that it is there in bountiful amounts

  • and everyone has access to it because you can turn a tap,

  • and that's a big problem.

  • [narrator] In fact, by 2040

  • most of the world won't have enough water to meet demand year-round.

  • We're facing a global water crisis and it's getting worse.

  • We're at a real inflection point where, if we're not careful,

  • we may actually get out ahead of our ability to manage it.

  • [narrator] There's no substitute for water.

  • Each of us will die in just a few days without it.

  • How have we built a world

  • where we don't have enough of its most valuable resource?

  • And as this crisis grows,

  • what will the new world look like?

  • [man] Waterways, built by the people

  • to free the land of the tyranny of nature.

  • For some investors, what they see in this glass

  • is liquid gold.

  • Clean water. Now.

  • [crowd chants]

  • -[in Spanish] In defense of water. -[man 2] Water becomes a commodity.

  • It takes on new value.

  • People claim it, haul it, treasure it.

  • [man 3] Dare we take our water supply for granted as we do the air we breathe?

  • [narrator] Earth is the blue planet.

  • There's no shortage of waterWe have 326 million trillion gallons of it.

  • Always have, always will.

  • Water may freeze into ice or evaporate into air,

  • but it doesn't leave our planet.

  • If you sucked up all the water on Earth, it would fit into this sphere.

  • But 97% of it is salty and 2% is trapped in ice at the poles,

  • so all of humankind relies on just 1% of that water to survive.

  • When people talk about running out of water,

  • what they really mean is,

  • do they have access to that very small percentage?

  • [narrator] And the answer depends a lot on where you live.

  • Kuwait is one of the poorest countries in terms of water per capita,

  • and Canada, one of the richest, doesn't have twice as much

  • or even ten times as much. It has 10,000 times as much.

  • But it also matters where the water is.

  • That 1% of Earth's water that we all rely on,

  • most of it is underground and really difficult and expensive to get to,

  • so humans have mostly settled close to surface water, like rivers and lakes.

  • Around 90% of the world's population

  • lives less than ten kilometers from a freshwater source.

  • Hundreds of years ago, when the Aztecs settled on what is now Mexico City,

  • they saw a giant lake.

  • These are the last remnants of the canals they made.

  • When the Spanish came in the 16th century,

  • one soldier marveled at the Aztec city rising from the water

  • that seemed like an enchanted vision.

  • But then the Spanish started draining the lake,

  • and over the next few centuries that space was filled by people.

  • Like in most places, surface water in Mexico

  • was treated as a public resource, key to development.

  • And since 1950, Mexico City's population has exploded.

  • It's now home to 22 million people.

  • I would say some of the most important threats

  • for Mexico City are related to water.

  • [narrator] Mexico City gets more rain than notoriously rainy London.

  • But the lakes that would have collected that water are long gone,

  • so the city floods.

  • But they still need to pipe in

  • most of their water from other parts of Mexico.

  • Or they pump it from underground.

  • We've gotten a lot better at accessing groundwater.

  • But there's a catch.

  • Those water deposits, called aquifers, have accumulated over millennia

  • and they'll take millennia to fill back up.

  • Groundwater is sort of like the savings account,

  • which it's fine to draw on sometimes, especially when you have a drought.

  • [narrator] That's not what Mexico City's been doing.

  • We take out from the local aquifer around 50% of our water supply.

  • That means that probably we'll lose half of our supply of water

  • in the next 30-50 years.

  • [narrator] Sucking up that groundwater has another side effect.

  • It compresses the soil.

  • Mexico City is literally sinking.

  • In some places, as much as nine inches a year.

  • NASA satellite data shows aquifers in northern India

  • decreasing by 29 trillion gallons in just a decade.

  • There are simply more people on Earth consuming more water.

  • This century, water consumption has increased sevenfold.

  • And the rain and snow that we count on to water crops and refill lakes and rivers

  • is getting less reliable.

  • [Otto] Climate change is making available water much more erratic.

  • We're seeing areas around the world

  • that are experiencing much more extended dry periods.

  • [narrator] But the problem isn't just that there's more people on Earth using water,

  • it's how we're using water.

  • Humans need to drink almost a gallon of water per day.

  • Brushing your teeth, washing your hands typically uses about a gallon.

  • [flushes]

  • There goes three gallons.

  • But the drinking, washing and toilet flushing

  • of every person on Earth only accounts for 8% of our freshwater use each year.

  • Most of the water goes to agriculture and industry,

  • and into the food and products we use.

  • Let's take a bottle of Coca-Cola.

  • 98% of the water in that bottle

  • is not what you see in that bottle.

  • 98% of the water is actually embedded in all the ingredients that were grown

  • to make that bottle of Coca-Cola.

  • [narrator] 74 liters of water goes into every glass of beer.

  • A cup of coffee? 130 liters.

  • Each of your cotton shirts - 2,500 liters.

  • But nothing has as much embedded water as meat.

  • Alfalfa is a common ingredient in cattle feed,

  • and growing a kilogram of it takes 510 liters of water.

  • An average cow consumes about 12 kilograms of feed a day.

  • Divided up,

  • just one quarter-pound hamburger takes around 1,650 liters of water to produce.

  • The world is eating more and more like Americans.

  • Higher calorie diets with more meat.

  • But everyone can't eat like Americans.

  • There actually isn't enough water in the world.

  • Water doesn't abide by some of the basic rules of capitalism.

  • Farmers hardly pay anything for it.

  • So the true cost of water doesn't end up in the cost of the burger.

  • Which is why those fast food places can offer you bargain burgers.

  • [man 1] How can it be 99 cents?

  • [man 2] For only 2.99. You heard right: 2.99.

  • [narrator] In most places in the world,

  • water is treated and priced like there will always be enough of it.

  • So we end up using it in absurdly wasteful ways.

  • Arid Southern California uses over two trillion gallons of water a year

  • to grow alfalfa, which they get from the Colorado River,

  • hundreds of miles away.

  • The amount they pay for it doesn't even cover the cost of delivery.

  • Just a fraction of the water used by South Africa's wine industry

  • would be enough for Cape Town's taps.

  • India and China both grow their most water-intensive crops

  • in some of their driest regions.

  • But as water gets more scarce, that may change.

  • The bank Goldman Sachs predicted that water would be

  • the petroleum of the 21st century.

  • And private interests, like hedge funds, have started buying up water,

  • prompting fears that they'll take advantage of scarcity to turn a profit.

  • And if that sounds like a villain's plot in a James Bond movie,

  • that's because it was.

  • As of this moment,

  • my organization owns more than 60% of Bolivia's water supply.

  • This contract states that your new government...

  • will use us as utilities provider.

  • [narrator] But putting a higher price on water might have benefits.

  • The benefit of valuing water as we should

  • and sending, you know, a price signal,

  • is that we wouldn't be growing alfalfa in the desert.

  • [narrator] Remember that point. It'll be important later.

  • We wouldn't be growing crops that don't make sense in really arid places.

  • Because the economics of it wouldn't make sense.

  • [narrator] And 95% of the irrigated farmland in the world

  • probably wouldn't use the most inefficient irrigation method...

  • just flooding the fields.

  • And if water had a higher price,

  • governments might decide it's worth the money

  • to repair our water infrastructure.

  • [Kramer] We are not investing the financial resources needed

  • to make a good maintenance of the system.

  • One critical result of this is that we have 42% of leakages

  • in the water network.

  • [narrator] Mexico City, which is facing an existential water crisis,

  • loses close to half of its drinking water to leaky pipes.

  • We value water so little,

  • we dump two million tons

  • of sewage and agricultural and industrial waste into it every day.

  • There's no sense of value

  • to what is really an incredibly invaluable resource in water.

  • But then when we run out, we find what the cost of water truly is.

  • [yelling]

  • [speaking Spanish]

  • [narrator] In 2017,

  • the city of Mexicali finalized a deal with Constellation Brands,

  • the maker of Modelo and Corona beers,

  • to construct a brewery.

  • It would be the biggest investment the region had seen in years,

  • creating 750 permanent jobs.

  • And, in exchange, the brewery was guaranteed a lot of water.

  • But Mexicali doesn't have a lot of water to spare.

  • Its main water source is the Colorado River,

  • which starts in Colorado, in the U.S.

  • Fed by melting snow in the Rocky Mountains,

  • warmer temperatures in recent years have meant less snow,

  • which means less river.

  • You can tell how much less by that big bathtub ring.

  • The river flows south, quenching a few American cities along the way,

  • like Denver, Salt Lake City,

  • Las Vegas, Phoenix and Los Angeles.

  • Oh, and almost six million acres of farmland.

  • By the time the Colorado River reaches Mexicali,

  • it looks like this.

  • [man, in Spanish] It's been a long time since we've had enough water.

  • If the brewery settles in and starts producing,

  • in a few years, we'll run out of underground water.

  • [in Spanish] The farmers are the ones who get the worst of it.

  • [in Spanish] They need 20 million cubic meters per year.

  • If we compare that to, say, cities such as Ensenada,

  • which need nine million cubic meters, it's more than double.

  • More than double of a city.

  • [narrator] The more scarce water gets, more access to it becomes a competition,

  • with winners and losers,

  • often with governments picking.

  • In July 2018,

  • the federal government of Mexico issued a decree

  • making it easier for businesses like Constellation Brands

  • to extract surface water all around the country.

  • [in Spanish] We see this as a stick-up.

  • It's also a warning

  • not only for the Mexican people but the entire world.

  • We know that many other parts of the world

  • are fighting against these privatization projects

  • that line the companies' pockets.

  • [narrator] In January 2018,

  • protesters tried to physically block the construction