Imagine this - a view of the floor of Chicago Mercantile Exchange at some forthcoming time, but instead of soybeans, pork bellies, corn and wheat, traders are exchanging water and/or water futures.
That seemed to be the vision of Steven Solomon, author of "Water: The Epic Struggle for Wealth, Power, and Civilization," who appeared on MSNBC's Jan. 5 "Morning Joe." According to Solomon, commoditizing water, much as Al Gore as attempted to do with carbon, is a solution to this coming crisis, which will overtake the oil crisis as a pressing issue.
"Well, why we're not aware of it - I think we need an Al Gore of water, has not yet step forth to sound the clarion about the risks and opportunities, frankly," Solomon said. "[I]t's in plain sight. It's overtaking oil as our scarcest natural resource. And, just as oil reshaped the politics and the economics and even the national security issues of the last century, water is about to do so today."
Solomon portrayed water as a significant crisis that has toppled nations before and will do again if not addressed - despite the enormous cost of his policy proposals.
"In fact, I subtitled the book, the epic struggle for wealth, power, and civilization, because in every era of history, control of water wealth has been an access to power and has led to the rise and decline of great states," Solomon said.
"Morning Joe" host Joe Scarborough asked Solomon if a water shortage could indeed lead to wars.
"You say in the future, and I've heard others talking about this, wars will be fought over water," Scarborough said. "That will be the natural resource that people will kill each other for?"
There could be wars, Solomon said, referring to past history in the Middle East, which was portrayed to be a territorial dispute but had underlying "water issues."
"They may, indeed, and has happened already in Israel and in the Palestinian and Syrian issues," Solomon said. "The '67 war was partly ignited by water issues and still is a major problem in the peace process that we never - also don't hear of very often. But the insiders certainly do."
Solomon even managed to correlate water shortages to recent events connected to terrorism, specifically al Qaida's presence in Yemen.
"In the United States, we're talking about the terrorist attack just the other day in Yemen," Solomon said. "Yemen is one of the most water-scarce lands on the earth and has violence in its own country and states fail because they don't have enough water to feed their populations. And about half the world is not going to be able to feed itself in a very short while. So, and Pakistan is another country that is on the brink."
One of the hot political issues from 2009, at least in California, involved a court order to shut off water to the central part of the state to save a fish known as the Delta Smelt. According to Reuters, the court order caused agricultural losses expected "near $1 billion." But the problem lies elsewhere around the country according to Solomon.
"We're seeing a lot more water is entering our national politics a great deal more," Solomon said. "There are states - you alluded to California, but it's also Texas. Florida's got problems. The Great Lakes is trying to hold on to its water from others who covet it from the outside. We have battles going on from agri-businesses and industry on the one hand as they all need the same water."
Solomon suggested there was a business aspect - making water a tradable commodity could turn the United States into a major provider of the world's water, but at a price for the rest of the world.
"Now we have a lot in our country," Solomon said. "We have a golden opportunity in this nation to help grow our economy in an enormous way by using our existing water much more productively than we do at present. And we have a - we could be a mini-Saudi Arabia of water to a water-thirsty world if we take policies that are pretty easy to do."
Water, which is a substance 80 percent of the earth, but only 1 percent is usable according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, should be regulated with what he called "the golden rule" - you return water to the ecosystem in the same way you extracted it.
"Really, the deregulation of existing subsidies and the launching of a golden rule for our ecosystems, which says you return to the water to the ecosystem in the same way you take it out. And you're just -- basic fairness. And if you did those two things on a universal basis, I am convinced you would see an enormous increase in productivity of the way that we use water and therefore growth in our economy."