The economic slump still with us after several punishing years is largely rooted in living beyond our means — too much spending and not enough money in the bank to cover people’s expectations for the future.

This disconnect between actual and expected means is at the root of much of the financial markets’ distress. But it is also threatening another resource that modern society depends heavily upon: fresh water. If investors and companies do not plan for this already unfolding global threat, they are as vulnerable as overextended banks were when the housing bubble collapsed.

We live in a thirsty world. Climate change, population growth and pollution make quenching this thirst dramatically more difficult. Our over-leveraged global water position is fundamentally unsustainable, and the business community is already feeling the pain. Consider the following facts:

· In a recent survey backed by 354 institutional investors, 59 percent of the 100-plus largest global corporations report exposure to water-related risks, with over a third already suffering financial impacts.

· Ongoing drought in Texas has devastated cattle and cotton production and threatened power blackouts. The U.S. Department of Commerce reports drought-related losses in Texas and six neighboring states totaling $10 billion.

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