Water, Water Everywhere -- and Everywhere Under Threat

Water, Water Everywhere -- and Everywhere Under Threat

Water, as we have often said, is the new carbon: the latest resource that must be conserved, and the latest element of business operations that must be measured, managed and reduced.

Now, at the peak of World Water Week, more than a handful of surveys, reports and news items are bearing that idea out, as an ever-increasing number of people and companies are taking a hard look at the world's water supply.

First up is a survey from CircleOfBlue, which found the vast majority of the world's citizens concerned about water issues. Among the results:

• 93 percent say water pollution is a very serious (72 percent) or somewhat serious (21 percent) problem.
• 91 percent believe that a shortage of fresh water is a very serious (71 percent) or somewhat serious (20 percent) problem; while
• 78 percent say "solving drinking water problems will require significant help from companies," indicating that partnerships are an important component to resolving the world's fresh water sustainability challenges.
Infographic of global water use by sector by Hannah Nester for Circle of Blue. Click for full-sized. water use

Perfectly illustrating this need for partnerships -- as well as for business stepping up to manage its water use responsibly -- a new report, Water for Business: Initiatives Guiding Sustainable Water Management in the Private Sector," jointly published by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and theInternational Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), explores in-depth 16 initiatives or tools that have been developed in the last three years by business leaders, civil society and governments.

A sample of the global initiatives for water conservation. Click for full-sized. water initiatives


The report focuses specifically on three main categories of water-issues:

•Tools that support the identification of risks and opportunities related to water use and impacts;
• Initiatives and tools that aim to help business (and other organizations) measure water use and assess water-related impacts; and
• Approaches to developing response options, addressing questions such as how to report, what to disclose and how to recognize responsible water managers through certification schemes.

In putting these ideas into practice, beverage giant SAB Miller teamed up with the World Wildlife Fund this week to release a detailed analysis of its water footprint for its beer production lines in South Africa and the Czech Republic.

SAB footprint

What the partnership found was that water related to crop production makes up more than 98 percent of the beer's total water footprint, and that due to weather conditions in South Africa, operations in that country require more than three times as much water per liter of product created.

Next, a coalition of 23 fishing, environmental, public health and municipal groups released "California Water Solutions Now," a report that demonstrates how sustainable water management and cost-effective water conservation can meet the state's rapidly growing water demands through 2050.

The report highlights 10 strategic goals and 65 specific recommendations for how businesses, governments and individuals within the Golden State can manage, preserve and improve the state's water supplies.

Finally, for companies looking to invest in something akin to water offsets, the Bonneville Environmental Foundation (BEF) this week unveiled a voluntary water restoration marketplace, allowing businesses and individuals an opportunity to take responsibility for their water consumption by purchasing certificates that restore to nature an amount of water equal to what they use.

The marketplace, which was launched by BEF in conjunction with the Bullitt Foundation, the Natural Resources Defense Council and WhiteWave Foods Company, goes hand in glove with www.BEFwater.org, an online resource center to help groups better manage and track their water use.

With World Water Week running through Sunday the 22nd of August, it's a fair bet that more resources and reports will be released, but as of now the cup certainly runneth over.

Photo CC-licensed by Flickr user Flowery *L*u*z*a*.