Water risk to business is no small drip

Until recently, it has been difficult to accurately assess the business risks related to water. Water risks are unequally distributed around the globe, and businesses have lacked geographically specific information to understand the water problems they face. Further, much of the available information is outdated or the data is not precise enough to be useful to grasp geographic differences. Given the importance of water, we are flying frighteningly blind.

WRI recently launched a new online platform to be a go-to source for accurate and high-quality water-risk information. The mapping tool, the Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas, offers an unprecedented level of resolution and a comprehensive picture of water risks around the world. It enables companies, investors, governments and the public to assess risks using 12 indicators. It breaks down water quantity and quality and reputational and regulatory factors, giving users a multifaceted view of the particular water challenges they face.

In the coming months, a new projection tool will be added that will allow users to better manage risks in light of likely impacts from climate change, population and economic growth. The tool is geared toward business. GE and Goldman Sachs are two of the founding members, and there are now more than a dozen partners on the project. WRI also worked with partners in academia, government and civil society to develop the tools.

Several major companies have already used earlier versions. McDonald's, for example, asked its top 350 suppliers’ facilities to use the tool to report on local water risks at their facilities. Other companies — including Bank of America/Merrill Lynch, Owens-Corning and Procter & Gamble (also a funder) — have used the tool to evaluate risks.

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