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23 gen 2020

Investing in water: how investors can mobilise to fight water scarcity 

Across the developed world, our most essential need – water – appears effortlessly and abundantly from the tap. It costs us next to nothing. Yet while we experience easy abundance, under the surface, maintaining the world’s water flow has turned into a serious challenge.

Population growth is one of the biggest issues. In 1950, the world’s population was around 2.6bn. It has nearly tripled in the 70 years since then, reaching an estimated 7.7bn in 2019.1 And while the population has been growing, water consumption per person has too, driven by improving living standards and water access in the developing world.

Billions more people, each consuming more water – all while clean water supply is hit by climate change and the resulting droughts and extreme heat; it’s little surprise the UNCCD predicts water scarcity in some arid and semi-arid places will displace between 24 million and 700 million people by 2030, under the current climate change scenario. Beyond the risks to water supply for everyday use, this could have a profound impact on water-intensive industries like agriculture and energy.  

Investors are waking up to the fact that mounting challenges to water supply, and relentless demand, are creating persistent momentum and high-growth potential for companies operating in water supply, wastewater treatment and desalination. 

Big data is transforming how we invest in water 

Traditionally, water has been viewed as a fairly conservative industry, a world away from the fast-growth, big-data-driven companies that define the technology sector. That is set to change.

Across the world, water infrastructure is ageing. New investments are needed to upgrade and replace outdated facilities, or install new ones where none existed before. EPA data shows that household leaks can waste more than 1 trillion gallons annually in the US alone – that’s the equivalent of the annual household water use of over 11 million homes.2 The need to improve capital-allocation decisions through better monitoring of water networks and physical assets has led to a surge in smart meter installations across water networks, while increasing the adoption of network data collection technologies.

These mountains of data require assessment and analysis, and water company investments have been increasingly tilting towards data management tools. A survey of water utilities (conducted by the Smart Water Networks Forum for engineering firm C2HM and the Water Environment and Reuse Foundation) showed that, in 2017 alone, around a third of respondents implemented technology to store and process big data, with another third already having done so in previous years.3 Specifically in the US, the municipal water sector is expected to spend over $20 billion over the next decade on software, data, and analytics solutions.4

Because of these investments, water utilities are now making operational leaps, resulting in greater profitability and better resource management. Some of the holdings in our ETF are early adopters of the shift towards smart water. US water technology supplier Xylem has been expanding its big data activities by acquiring water-tech startups. In 2017 the company acquired Pure Technologies, which offers intelligent leak detection and condition assessment solutions for water distribution networks; a year earlier Xylem also bought smart meter company Sensus and data analytics firm Visenti.5

Similarly, UK water utility Severn Trend leverages technology built by IBM to better monitor and reduce polluting overflow issues in their sewer network.6 Taking a different tack, transnational water services company Veolia is developing many similar technologies in-house.7


Key takeaways: the investment opportunities in water

  • The water sector is already proving a solid investment opportunity, supported by structural supply and demand dynamics.
  • Humanity’s fundamental and perennial reliance on water services suggests this secular theme will remain resilient to any short-term market fluctuations.
  • The shift towards smart-water technologies means the sector is set to benefit from major tech-driven efficiency gains, along with better decision-making in capital allocation.
  • These factors should result in further enhancements to the bottom line, particularly for the larger market players, positioning the water sector as an attractive long-term investment 



How to invest in water

Lyxor manages one of the oldest and largest water-dedicated ETFs in Europe.8 Over the past decade – during which equity markets performed strongly – the World Water Total Return index underlying our fund still managed to outpace the MSCI World Index, as well as a competitor benchmark, the S&P Global Water EUR index.9

Starting with a universe of global developed and emerging market stocks, our water ETF mobilises capital towards the 30 companies with the largest share of revenues derived from water-related industries. These include water utilities, which supply water and provide post-treatment services for waste water; water infrastructure companies, such as consulting firms and suppliers of pipes, pumps, valves and meters; and water treatment firms, including suppliers of disinfection, filtration and desalination products and technologies.

World Water cw Total Return Index – Country breakdown and top 10 holdings

World water

Source: Lyxor International Asset Management, as at 05/12/2019

Tackle the water scarcity challenge today



This article is for informative purposes only, and should not be taken as investment advice. Lyxor ETF does not in any way endorse or promote the companies mentioned in this article. Capital at risk. Please read our Risk Warning below.

1United Nations estimates. https://www.un.org/en/sections/issues-depth/population/index.html (1950 figures) and https://population.un.org/wpp/Publications/Files/WPP2019_Highlights.pdf (2019 figures)

2Source: United States Environmental Protection Agency, https://19january2017snapshot.epa.gov/www3/watersense/pubs/fixleak.html
3Source: The Smart Water Networks Forum, https://www.swan-forum.com/swan-research/
4Source: Bluefield Research, https://www.wateronline.com/doc/smart-water-questions-answered-0001
5Source: Xylem website, https://www.xylem.com/en-us/about-xylem/newsroom/press-releases/xylem-to-acquire-pure-technologies-a-leader-in-smart-infrastructure-assessment-and-management-for-the-water-industry/
6Source: Waterworld.com, https://www.waterworld.com/international/utilities/article/16203079/ibm-solution-empowers-severn-trent-with-big-data
7Source:http://www.veolia.com/middleeast/sites/g/files/dvc171/f/assets/documents/2014/11/Smart_City_Water_LR.pdf
8Source: Lyxor International Asset Management, as at 20/01/2020. AuM of the Lyxor World Water UCITS ETF was €840m as at 20/01/2010.
9Source: Lyxor International Asset Management, Bloomberg, as at 31/12/2019. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future results.

Risk Warning

This document is for the exclusive use of investors acting on their own account and categorised either as “Eligible Counterparties” or “Professional Clients” within the meaning of Markets in Financial Instruments Directive 2014/65/EU. These products comply with the UCITS Directive (2009/65/EC). Société Générale and Lyxor International Asset Management (LIAM) recommend that investors read carefully the “investment risks” section of the product’s documentation (prospectus and KIID). The prospectus and KIID are available free of charge on www.lyxoretf.com, and upon request to client-services-etf@lyxor.com.

Except for the United-Kingdom, where this communication is issued in the UK by Lyxor Asset Management UK LLP, which is authorized and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority in the UK under Registration Number 435658, this communication is issued by Lyxor International Asset Management (LIAM), a French management company authorized by the Autorité des marchés financiers and placed under the regulations of the UCITS (2014/91/EU) and AIFM (2011/61/EU) Directives. Société Générale is a French credit institution (bank) authorised by the Autorité de contrôle prudentiel et de résolution (the French Prudential Control Authority).

The products mentioned are the object of market-making contracts, the purpose of which is to ensure the liquidity of the products on the London Stock Exchange, assuming normal market conditions and normally functioning computer systems. Units of a specific UCITS ETF managed by an asset manager and purchased on the secondary market cannot usually be sold directly back to the asset manager itself. Investors must buy and sell units on a secondary market with the assistance of an intermediary (e.g. a stockbroker) and may incur fees for doing so. In addition, investors may pay more than the current net asset value when buying units and may receive less than the current net asset value when selling them. Updated composition of the product’s investment portfolio is available on www.lyxoretf.com. In addition, the indicative net asset value is published on the Reuters and Bloomberg pages of the product, and might also be mentioned on the websites of the stock exchanges where the product is listed.

Prior to investing in the product, investors should seek independent financial, tax, accounting and legal advice. It is each investor’s responsibility to ascertain that it is authorised to subscribe, or invest into this product. This document is of a commercial nature and not of a regulatory nature. This material is of a commercial nature and not a regulatory nature. This document does not constitute an offer, or an invitation to make an offer, from Société Générale, Lyxor Asset Management (together with its affiliates, Lyxor AM) or any of their respective subsidiaries to purchase or sell the product referred to herein.

Research disclaimer

Lyxor International Asset Management (“LIAM”) or its employees may have or maintain business relationships with companies covered in its research reports. As a result, investors should be aware that LIAM and its employees may have a conflict of interest that could affect the objectivity of this report. Investors should consider this report as only a single factor in making their investment decision. Please see appendix at the end of this report for the analyst(s) certification(s), important disclosures and disclaimers. Alternatively, visit our global research disclosure website www.lyxoretf.com/compliance.

Conflicts of interest 

This research contains the views, opinions and recommendations of Lyxor International Asset Management (“LIAM”) Cross Asset and ETF research analysts and/or strategists. To the extent that this research contains trade ideas based on macro views of economic market conditions or relative value, it may differ from the fundamental Cross Asset and ETF Research opinions and recommendations contained in Cross Asset and ETF Research sector or company research reports and from the views and opinions of other departments of LIAM and its affiliates. Lyxor Cross Asset and ETF research analysts and/or strategists routinely consult with LIAM sales and portfolio management personnel regarding market information including, but not limited to, pricing, spread levels and trading activity of ETFs tracking equity, fixed income and commodity indices. Trading desks may trade, or have traded, as principal on the basis of the research analyst(s) views and reports. Lyxor has mandatory research policies and procedures that are reasonably designed to (i) ensure that purported facts in research reports are based on reliable information and (ii) to prevent improper selective or tiered dissemination of research reports. In addition, research analysts receive compensation based, in part, on the quality and accuracy of their analysis, client feedback, competitive factors and LIAM’s total revenues including revenues from management fees and investment advisory fees and distribution fees.

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