Thursday, November 10, 2011

Asia’s Motown Meets Waterworld–The Global Water Supply Chain Crisis

Since July, an almost unceasing torrent of rain has soaked Thailand, flooding farms, roads, factories, and finally Bangkok itself, a city of some 12 million people; so far at least 500 people have died. To date the government has ordered evacuations of 12 of the city’s 50 districts, even as water continues to creep through the city from the north. Latest reports suggest floodwaters are now threatening the city’s rail transportation network.

By all accounts the floods are a humanitarian and economic disaster for the country, another apparent sign of the emerging dangers embedded in a variable and changing The floods, however, are also emblematic of something else—one of the clearest examples of the unprecedented water resource and climate dangers the global economy faces in an ever-more interconnected world.

One example: if you are reading this on a computer, there is a 40 percent chance that the hard drive you are using was manufactured in Thailand. With over a 1,000 Thai factories now closed due to flooding, hard-drive production in the country could be reduced by 25 to 40 percent according to IDC, a market research firm. Apple CEO Tim Cook told investors in an earnings conference call that he “is virtually certain there will be an overall industry shortage of disk drives as a result of this disaster.” Industry leader Western Digital, which produces some 60 percent of its hard drives in Thailand, expects output to drop by half. More