Russia can make billions selling fresh water

It has no flavour, no smell and it costs like the black gold. Russia is going to seriously engage in fresh water supplies. This idea was set forth by United Russia’s leader Boris Gryzlov.

During the IX party convention he stated: “Russia is going to enter new markets. Taking into consideration Russia’s water storage, it is indispensable to develop the export of drinking water, since in five years or so water will be another strategic product for the nation,” Interfax reports.

“All jokes aside, Russian fresh water supplies may equal oil and gas supplies,” Vadim Altaev, the Vice President of the Union of Bottled Water Manufacturers, said in an interview with “Specialists from many countries forecast that water will become number one product in the foreseeable future. We can dispense with oil, but we cannot dispense with water. Russia has one of the world’s greatest fresh water reserves,” he stated proudly.

According to Altaev, there are numerous fresh water resources in Russia: in the north, in the Arctic Ocean, in the south and in Siberia.

Alexander Stavtsev, editor-in-chief of Napitki (Beverages) magazine, shared his view. ”We have wonderful Lake Baikal with outstanding properties and amazing water that is extracted from depths of the lake,” he said.

However, he does not back up officials’ ambitions in this issue. It will be too difficult to conquer the world. ”First of all, fine water can be found practically everywhere nowadays. Secondly, if in some countries water is of poor quality, it can be purified and filtered, even in draughty Africa. By the way, the purifying equipment of Russian and Ukrainian production is a best-seller there,” Stavtsev particularly mentioned.

It will not be an easy task for bottled water manufacturers to break into the market. “Market penetration is an art,” he said. However, the expert could not say whether Russia was too late to come into the market.

He just said that several well-known trademarks already hold the market in their hands and Russia is not at the top of the list. It is premium class bottled water that can be exported, which stipulated glass, but not plastic bottles. “There is not much Russian premium class water,” he said.

“It is hard to sell Baikal water even in Moscow, to say nothing of other countries,” Stavtsev said. “Shall we export bottled water to China and Africa? I don’t think so. It requires serious marketing,” the editor-in-chief of Napitki magazine believes.

He said nothing about exporting water in cisterns or tubes like oil and whether water will become a strategic resource indeed.

Vadim Altaev, on the contrary, is certain of that: “There will be eternal need for water. Owing to climate changes more and more people will have to buy imported water. It is an untapped market at the moment; that is why it is too early to speak of its structuring. But perhaps, we should have already started preparing for it yesterday,” the expert concluded.

He believes that North Africa and the Middle East will be the first regions to start purchasing the Russian water. “There may be more prosperous developing countries, since water in Central Europe is not of good quality, I don’t take the Alps into consideration.”

The market of water as a strategic resource is still untapped, but maybe one day water will be delivered via pipelines like crude and gas do today. But water will be exported for a much longer time, for water resources are inexhaustible.

Moreover, transmission of large volumes of liquids is well-developed in Russia. “We may transport fresh water similar to crude transportation - in cisterns or tankers. For instance, Soviet tankers used to transport wine at long distances. We may revive this tradition with water.”

Besides, water prices per liter will amount to today’s prices of mineral oil. Now purified water costs about ten rubles per liter, while world oil prices reach about 14-15 rubles per liter. Thus, Russia may make a fortune selling water.

But there is one condition. In order to make money, Russia has to protect nature, pompous as it may sound. “No pain, no gain. We should address ecological problems. Lake Baikal, Russia’s treasure, is polluted by a paper pulp mill. I hope that the ecological measures that are well under way now will save the lake,” the expert said.

Natalia Trefilova

Translated by Julia Bulygina

Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov