How to manage your company's water risks using aqueduct maps

Editor's note: This post is part of a series on World Water Week, an annual event designed to draw attention to and discuss global water issues.

This piece was co-authored by Keith Liao, Senior Engineer with the AU Optronics Corporate Sustainability and Environment Department.

Companies are increasingly feeling the financial impacts of water risks like shortages and pollution. Ceres’ most recent report, Clearing the Waters, highlights the fact that companies are falling short on identifying key areas where their operations are exposed to physical water risks. Mitigating these threats, then, requires doing more to assess, disclose, and address them.

In an effort to learn more about how companies can better understand and manage water risks, the World Resources Institute’s Aqueduct program recently partnered with AU Optronics (AUO) to assess water risks faced by the company’s fabrication plants around the world. Headquartered in Hsinchu, Taiwan, AUO is a leading manufacturer of electronic screens, otherwise known as thin-film transistor liquid crystal displays (TFT-LCDs). AUO makes up 17 percent of the world’s market share of TFT-LCDs and generated $12.5 billion in annual sales revenue in 2011.

Water Is a Key Ingredient in Manufacturing

While billions of people around the world use electronic devices every day, few realize how important water is to the business of manufacturing digital displays. Companies like AUO rely heavily on large quantities of ultra-pure water for rinsing and cooling during panel manufacturing, and they work with a wide range of chemicals that require proper treatment and discharge.

After being forced to truck in water at significantly increased costs during a water shortage in Taiwan in 2002, AUO realized that it needed to make water management a central part of its corporate strategy. AUO currently collects water data on use, quality, and recycling rates across direct operations, but the company is now looking to develop an even more comprehensive water strategy that reflects international standards and guidelines for better water management. To help develop this strategy, AUO turned to Aqueduct’s Water Risk Atlas to complete a geographic water-risk assessment of the company’s fabrication plants around the world.

Photo of antique Roman aqueduct provided by Bartlomiej K. Kwieciszewski via Shutterstock

Next page: Using Aqueduct’s Water Risk Atlas to calculate business threats