Water risk is the next resource frontier, and our water is in trouble. Amy Haddon of Schneider Electric shares suggestions for how businesses can act on water security and ensure the availability of water resources for years to come.
13 August, 2018
Water is arguably our most precious resource. It is requisite for the survival of all life on our planet. It is also finite. While water is endlessly recyclable through the hydrologic cycle, there’s only so much of the stuff, and only about one per cent of it is freshwater that is usable for human consumption.
Beyond its fundamental role in our survival, water also plays a key function in any number of planetary and business activities. Water, (and the hydrologic cycle) is responsible for driving global weather patterns. Water is a primary ingredient in the creation of fossil-fuel-generated electricity.
Water is also essential for global food production and a crucial element in health and sanitation. It is used in many of the manufacturing processes that provide us with consumable goods. It allows us to ship these goods around the world. It drives global tourism and provides a source of recreation and relaxation.
Globally, water faces numerous challenges that in turn are impacting business, namely:
The Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) has found that water risk impacts nearly every industry sector. The good news is that businesses are coming to understand those risks. In 2017, CDP saw a 193 per cent increase in companies disclosing their water risk and water security solutions.
We can reduce this resource risk with water security solutions. Here are five top suggestions for how businesses can act on water security and ensure the availability of water resources for years to come:
An important first step for any business is to determine its water consumption baseline and begin tracking utilisation, using a software like EcoStruxure™ Resource Advisor. Not every company uses water in the same way, and tracking utilisation helps businesses determine where and how to concentrate their reduction and efficiency efforts.
A water audit can help identify where water is used in a business. But making a real change may require thinking beyond existing processes and products.
How can your business reimagine its use of water? Are there steps in the production process that use water that could be reinvented, or even eliminated? Are there new, more efficient technologies that could help you achieve your water reduction goals? Could existing, water-intensive materials be replaced with other ingredients?
Leading companies—including Kimberly-Clark Corporation, Alcoa, Gap Inc., and others—invest in, or work with suppliers who invest in, water recycling, collection, and treatment facilities as part of their operation.
Whether this includes collecting rainwater, repurposing grey water, or cleaning/filtering water for reuse, the results speak for themselves: with its Australian filtration system, Alcoa has been able to reduce freshwater withdrawals by more than 300 million gallons per year.
Global warming is a key driver behind many water challenges. Acting as quickly as possible to reduce atmospheric greenhouse gases can help keep the impacts of global warming to a minimum and reduce evaporative stress on water resources.
Companies can set a science-based carbon reduction goal to begin the process of decarbonising their operations at a level consistent with existing climate science.
Renewable energy is a primary means to achieve science-based carbon reduction goals. Renewables also help reduce water consumption because they require almost no water to produce or transport electricity.
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