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CEE 273B: The Business of Water

Freshwater is our most crucial natural resource, but it is facing mounting pressures from climate change and other factors. While public agencies traditionally dominated water management, private water companies are playing an increasingly important (and sometime controversial) role. In many cases, private companies are making critical contributions to meeting societal water needs (e.g., by developing new technologies and finding new ways to reduce water use). In other cases, however, the involvement of private companies has proven controversial (e.g., when private companies have taken over public water supply systems in developing countries such as Bolivia). This course will look at established and emerging businesses in the water sector and the legal, economic, and social issues generated by the private sector's involvement. These businesses include water technology companies (e.g., companies commercializing new desalination or water recycling technologies), venture capitalists, water funds (that directly buy and sell water rights), consulting firms, innovative agricultural companies, and large corporations (that increasingly are adopting corporate stewardship programs). The course will begin with two weeks of introduction to water and the private water sector. After that, each class will focus on a different water company. Company executives will attend each class session and discuss their business with the class. In most classes, we will examine (1) the viability and efficacy of the company's business plan, (2) the legal and/or social issues arising from the business' work, and (3) how the business might contribute to improved water management and policy. Each student will be expected to write (1) two short reflection papers on businesses that visit the class, and (2) a 10- to15-page paper at the conclusion of the class on an idea that the student has for a new water company, on an existing water company of the student's choice, or on a legal or policy initiative that can improve the role that business plays in improving water management (either in a particular sector or more generally). This course is open to graduate students from around the campus. Elements used in grading: Attendance, Class Participation, Written Assignments, Final Paper. Cross-listed with Civil & Environmental Engineering ( CEE 273B).
Terms: Spr | Units: 1-2
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