“By addressing the issue of water scarcity, companies can reduce the likelihood of social unrest and trans-boundary disputes,” said Sarbjit Nahal, equity strategist at BofA Merrill Lynch Global Research. “Together with our sector analysts, we are setting out in this report the 60 global stocks covered by BofA Merrill Lynch Global Research that are best-positioned to lead in addressing more sustainable water use and to more closely match supply with demand.”

Water treatment – emerging market growth driving demand

Rising water scarcity and growing demand from agriculture, housing and industry will increase demand for water treatment. The report details how agriculture accounts for 70 percent of water use and demand is rising as diets change. As industries across emerging markets expand, their demand for water rises. Municipal and residential water use is also growing on the back of urbanization. Wastewater reuse stands at only 2.41 percent of all water withdrawals globally.

The report outlines opportunities in areas such as producing drinking water, irrigation, or returning water to the natural environment. It focuses on sectors with heavy volumes and environmental constraints (such as utilities, oil and gas, and mining), those with strict water constraints (food and beverage, cosmetics) and variable effluents (petrochemicals, energy, and breweries). The report highlights how desalination could emerge as a $25 billion industry by 2025.

Water management – smarter irrigation is key

Against the backdrop of growing water scarcity, fragmented water management and conflicting interests of stakeholders are too expensive and unsustainable in the long term. There is growing recognition that the water crisis is as much a consequence of weak policies and poor management as natural scarcity. Effective water management enables users to cut their use of water. It also mitigates the risks associated with water shortage and reduces the need for capex-intensive solutions.

With up to 60 percent of water used in agriculture wasted, smarter irrigation is essential. Household water management has huge potential – if all U.S. households installed water-saving features, the dollar-volume savings would be more than $4 billion per year. Companies involved in areas such as drought-resistant seeds and crops and smart metering are poised to benefit from appetite for water management.

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