Water is not usually thought of as an exciting or innovative industry. It’s a basic good typically sold at a fairly low cost. And, yet, investing in the best water stocks on today’s list just may change your mind.
With economic troubles mounting, it’s not a great time to be taking risks. Water stocks are about as low-risk as they come. After all, people will not meaningfully change their water consumption regardless of what happens with inflation or geopolitics.
When seeking to invest in water stocks, investors could choose to go the exchange-traded fund route and buy shares of Invesco Water Resources ETF (NASDAQ:PHO) or First Trust Water ETF (NYSEARCA:FIW). However, those who want to invest in individual water stocks have a number of options, including diversified water infrastructure plays, companies that make individual products such as meters, and water utilities.
Here are seven of the best water stocks to buy today.
|Advanced Drainage Systems
|American Water Works
Best Water Stocks: Xylem (XYL)
Xylem (NYSE:XYL) is a dominant player in the water infrastructure space. The company’s business lines include water measurement, water infrastructure and applied uses of water. This covers things such as water storage, testing and efficiency.
Xylem has built its business to provide everything that a water utility could need. Whereas many companies just offer meters, pipes or valves, Xylem provides the whole range of things a water utility is looking for. This creates efficiency in terms of sales and marketing. The company is a true one-stop shop that saves time and guesswork for clients.
Xylem shares are down 22% year to date, yet they are still selling for around 28 times forward earnings. This shows investors are willing to pay up for the pure-play water equipment leader. In light of the company’s consistent growth record and the mission-critical products it sells, I don’t think the valuation is too high.
Valmont Industries (VMI)
Valmont Industries (NYSE:VMI) is an under-the-radar industrial conglomerate primarily focused on making fabricated products for a variety of uses. Think of things such as metal, wood and steel poles used in traffic, lighting, cell phone towers and the like. But Valmont also provides water management solutions and technology for the agricultural industry, including the manufacturing of mechanical irrigation equipment.
Grain and food prices have soared this year following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. In many areas, drought and water scarcity are big concerns, so a company like Valmont that can help farmers use water wisely is of great importance.
Shares are up 15% year to date but are selling for less than 18 times forward earnings, which isn’t bad. Valmont is exposed to sectors such as transportation and agriculture, which should fare better in a recession than many others. After all, transportation benefits from the recent infrastructure bill, while agricultural demand is elevated thanks to geopolitical uncertainty.
Best Water Stocks: Badger Meter (BMI)
Many of the best water stocks on today’s list are industrial firms with numerous lines of business, one of which happens to be water. Badger Meter (NYSE:BMI), on the other hand, is a pure play.
The company manufactures and sells water meters, both mechanical and static, to municipal water utilities. It also offers related radio and software technologies and services. And its flow instrumentation products, which are used to control how much liquid or gas flows through a pipe or pipeline, are used in the water industry, as well as heating and cooling and corporate sustainability markets.
In recent years, Badger Meter has broadened its business with a big push into water quality, industrial discharge monitoring and other related services.
Badger Meter shares look expensive with a forward P/E of nearly 40. But the 10% year-to-date drop in BMI stock offers a more attractive entry point for this high-quality water infrastructure play.
Ecolab (NYSE:ECL) is the world’s largest provider of hygiene, sanitation, and water treatment and efficiency services globally. In fact, it generated nearly five times as much in sales as its closest peer, Diversey (NASDAQ:DSEY), in 2021.
Ecolab is an all-in-one service provider for hotels, factories, restaurants, government facilities, lumber mills, data centers and more. The idea is that Ecolab provides chemicals to clean surfaces and materials, treat water, kill pests and maintain product quality. Business was hurt as the coronavirus pandemic took a toll on some of its customer segments, such as those in the hospitality and restaurant industries, but those industries are recovering.
Ecolab’s management has made a big push in its water business recently, and it prioritizes helping companies reduce their water footprint. This is a win-win, as companies that reduce their water usage both save money and score more highly in environmental sustainability metrics.
ECL stock is down 35% year to date and trades at 25 times forward earnings. Once the economy stabilizes, I expect Ecolab shares to come roaring back.
Best Water Stocks: Advanced Drainage Systems (WMS)
Advanced Drainage Systems (NYSE:WMS) is a leader in managing stormwater and septic wastewater. It is also one of the largest plastic recycling companies in North America, processing more than 500 million pounds annually.
The company has grown quickly through organic market share increases and strategic acquisitions. This has resulted in double-digit revenue and earnings growth, which is impressive in an industry that’s not known for rapid growth.
Shares have rallied from $30 in 2019 to $135 today. Yet, even after the tremendous run-up, WMS stock is still selling for just 22 times forward earnings. Stormwater management and plastic recycling aren’t glamorous businesses, but there’s good money in them.
American Water Works (AWK)
Most American water providers are privately held companies or run by local governments, so the amount of publicly traded water utilities is far smaller than you might initially expect. American Water Works (NYSE:AWK) is one of the largest publicly traded water companies out there, with a market cap of around $25 billion. The company provides water and wastewater services to 1,700 towns across 14 states with more than 3 million customers.
Historically, AWK stock has been quite expensive, as investors have paid up for the firm’s reliable cash flows and steady results. However, the recent bear market has made shares much more attractive from a valuation perspective.
AWK stock is down 28% in 2022 and sits just 5.5% above its 52-week low. This has dropped shares from around 35x forward earnings to less than 28x, while pushing the dividend yield up to 2%.
Best Water Stocks: Essential Utilities (WTRG)
Essential Utilities (NYSE:WTRG) is a large water and gas utility. Formerly known as Aqua America, it made a $4.3 billion acquisition of People’s Gas in 2020. In doing so, it became a multi-service utility, but water remains the firm’s largest source of profits.
Although water and gas utilities don’t tend to be fast growers, they do offer stable cash flows. Essential Utilities is finding opportunity in upgrading and modernizing older water systems. The water quality crises we’ve seen in cities such as Flint, Mich., and more recently, Jackson, Miss., highlight the importance of having updated systems. Government investment in this area should bode well for Essential Utilities.
Shares are down 18% year to date and trade with a forward P/E of around 22. The stock is a Dividend Aristocrat, meaning it has grown its dividend payout for more than 25 years in a row. It currently throws off a yield of 2.8%.
On the date of publication, Ian Bezek held a long position in WTRG and ECL stock. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, subject to the InvestorPlace.com Publishing Guidelines.