You can pay 20 times more for water than petrol in some capitals these days: in Doha, you’ll part with a handful of euro cents for a litre of unleaded and a fistful of dollars for the equivalent Perrier.
And, as demand increases and supplies dwindle, we soon may be paying similar tabs for the stuff that comes out of taps, while the water industry, currently worth €300bn a year, will double in size over the next decade.
Remote though it might seem from a western European perspective, water has already run dry for billions of people. The UN estimates that around 1.1 billion have poor access to drinking water, while 2.6 billion have inadequate water for sanitation. Governments in the Persian Gulf are turning to desalination – which purifies seawater either through evaporation or filtering – not as a supplement to aquifer water, but as the main source.