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Website: Carbon Disclosure Project

From developing laundry detergents that use less water to driving down costs through more efficient use, companies are increasingly viewing water as more than a potential business risk.

Some of the world's largest and most water-intensive companies also see business opportunities in strengthening their water management practices and offering services to address water woes, according to the Carbon Disclosure Project's inaugural Water Disclosure Report released today.

The nonprofit that has for years prodded large companies to disclose their carbon footprints has turned its attention to water, surveying 302 companies in the FTSE Global Equity Index Series on behalf of 137 institutional investors. About half responded, revealing the vast majority have water policies, strategies, and performance targets in place. Sixty-two percent view water as a business opportunity, and an even greater number recognize its inherent linkage to energy.

While encouraging, the findings aren't all rosy: Thirty-nine percent of companies have experienced detrimental impacts from water over the past five years, such as business disruptions or increased water costs. What's worse is the risks cited by businesses in the report are current to near-term, making it essential that companies immediately and proactively address potential problems, Norton said Thursday in a phone interview.