Businesses called on to collaborate on improved water management

Businesses must plan for an unpredictable and inconsistent water supply by engaging in more sophisticated water management practices, according to a report released today.

The report, Sharing Water: Engaging Business, was compiled by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and emphasises the crucial role of business in ensuring responsible management of water resources.

It finds that leading companies have begun shifting their perspective beyond merely managing operational water use to becoming more conscious of how corporate actions impact local and regional water resources.

WBCSD president Peter Bakker said that the increasing global demand for water and the impacts of climate change were placing unprecedented strain on freshwater resources.

“In order to ensure a viable business future, companies are calling for collective management and collaboration at the watershed level to ensure continued access to water supplies among competing demands,” he said.

Citing figures from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the report states that if current trends continue, water demand will increase by 55% globally by 2050, leaving little scope to meet increasing water demands while respecting the needs of ecosystems.

It adds that with no improvement in the management and use of freshwater resources, the world could face a 40% supply gap by 2030.

The WBCSD argues that most businesses should adopt a watershed approach, which takes into consideration upstream and downstream interactions, direct and indirect impacts, and the needs of the environment.

It claims that this approach is a cost-effective method to mitigate water risks, providing significant benefits and opportunities through new revenue prospects, reputation enhancement, improved compliance and cost-savings.

According to the report, the challenge of water management is complicated by the localised nature of water quality and quantity, which are determined by a range of local factors including geography, geology, climate, demography, infrastructure, competition and regulation. No two watersheds are the same, and, as such, some regions are less susceptible to water constraints while others face scarcity and pollution challenges.

Bakker said: “Collaboration is urgently needed. Business alone cannot ensure sustainable water use across a watershed.

“To accelerate the impact of a watershed approach, companies must advocate for and contribute to an efficient regulatory environment that governs all water use in a watershed.”

Conor McGlone

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