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Blackstone: let’s work together on water

Global Water Development Partners, established by Blackstone and two ex-IFC employees, wants to work with large institutions and investors in improving water infrastructure worldwide.

Global Water Development Partners, the newly established water investment and development platform, is keen to partner with other institutions and investors in providing growth capital to companies developing long-term, sustainable water facilities worldwide.

Considering the huge amount of infrastructure needed in the water sector across both developing and developed economies, there is no place for competition at this stage, Usha Rao-Monari, chief executive of Global Water Development Partners, told Agri Investor.

“We believe that the best approach going forward is through partnerships,” she said. “Whether they are institutional, multi-lateral or governmental, it is good to work together to develop water infrastructure.”

And interest in the sector will not be limited. Rao-Monari has noticed that an increasing number of investors, from insurers to pensions, are now looking at the sector as the implications of a limited water supply are starting to be noticed.

“There is a gap between the demand for water and its supply in the future,” she said. “The 2030 Water Resources Group figures point to a need for water supplies to increase by 40 percent by 2030 to satisfy global demand.”

Global Water Development Partners was established by Blackstone Energy Partners, the energy-focused arm of alternative asset manager The Blackstone Group, alongside Rao-Monari and Lars Thunell, the programme’s chairman last week. Both Rao-Monari and Thunell previously worked at International Finance Corporation.

Rao-Monari was director of the Sustainable Business Advisory Group and as the global head of IFC’s Water and Wastewater Group she was instrumental in establishing the 2030 Water Resources Group, a public-private partnership platform. Thunell was chief executive of IFC.

Global Water Development Partners is owned by Blackstone’s $2.5 billion BEP I and $16.7 billion BCP VI funds. They will both invest with the platform on a project-by-project basis.

The water projects will range in their scope from the development of desalination facilities to large scale waste water treatment for industrial customers but the link to agriculture is strong.

“Our mandate is to support the necessary build out of water infrastructure globally,” said Rao-Monari. “This naturally links to agriculture as the largest user of water. For example, building out wastewater reuse infrastructure for industrial facilities would benefit agriculture through greater freshwater availability for efficient micro-irrigation.”

The firm will take on a global approach to the water sector and each region will require a different approach.

“The world can be divided into two types of water scenarios: Africa where only four percent of the continent’s total water supply is actually harnessed, including agriculture, and developed regions such as Europe and the US where the infrastructure build out has taken place but it’s now in need of rehabilitation,” said Rao-Monari.