Assessing Water Usage, Risk, Comparisons and Footprints

Water is a strategic resource for most businesses. However, there is still a reluctance to take water management seriously, despite the fact that water availability has become a serious factor in business risk assessments.

There are many different tools and techniques available to assist business managers and directors to understand and quantify that water risk. The Internet provides access to many of these tools, whose use needs to be considered carefully. Some are high level tools developed for policy makers and not relevant to the average businessperson. Others are very specific to, for example, a country or a business sector. As in most aspects of life, there is no “quick fix” or “universal solution”. The tools need to be examined, experimented with and, in some cases, adapted to site/area/sector/use specific needs and requirements.

The WWF has prepared a comparison of some of the major accessible water tools  but as it was compared by the team who developed the WWF water risk filter, there is a disclaimer which suggests that the comparison may not be entirely objective!

The CEO Water Mandate has assembled an extensive and varied list of water resource evaluation tools which cover a wide range of scenarios and situations. It takes time to work through these – be warned! Or you can follow the water stewardship toolbox and work through the suggestions put forward.

Indicated below is an abbreviated list of water tools which may assist businesses that need to draw up an objective view of their water risks using a combination of quantitative and qualitative information. Please feel free to provide feedback as this article will be updated periodically with new information, as it becomes available.

WBCSD Global Water Tool

The World Business Council for Sustainable Development Global Water Tool (GWT) is a free, publicly available resource for identifying corporate water risks and opportunities which provides easy access to and analysis of critical data. It includes a workbook (data input, inventory by site, key reporting indicators, metrics calculations), a mapping function to plot sites with datasets, and Google Earth interface for spatial viewing.

By comparing sites with the best available water, sanitation, population and biodiversity information on a country and watershed basis, including sub-basin data, the tool allows one to answer the following questions:

  • How many of your sites are in extremely water-scarce areas? Which sites are at greatest risk? How will that change in the future?
  • How much of your total production is generated from your most at risk sites?
  • How many of your employees live in countries that lack access to improved water and sanitation?
  • How many of your suppliers are in water scarce areas now and will be in 2025?

GEMI “Connecting the Drops” Water Sustainability Tool

The Global Environmental Management Initiative (GEMI) has developed an analytical process, the Water Sustainability Tool, to assist individual companies and other organizations to better understand what emerging water issues might mean for them, given their operations, needs, and circumstances. The tool is designed to help individual companies build a business water strategy. The tool encourages businesses to:

  • Conduct a systematic assessment of their relationship to water;
  • Identify specific opportunities and risks associated with this relationship;
  • Assess the business case for action;
  • Tailor a water strategy that addresses specific needs and circumstances of the organization; and
  • Ensure that water-related opportunities and risks are tracked and managed effectively into the future using a continual improvement framework.

WWF Water Risk Filter

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Water Risk Filter tool helps companies and investors ask the right questions about water. It allows the user to assess risks and offers guidance on what to do in response. More than 2,500 organizations from 32 industry sectors have assessed facilities. Specific facilities or agricultural commodities can be viewed, each with an automated basin assessment and questionnaire to evaluate direct operations.

CERES Aqua Gauge

The Aqua Gauge offers a comprehensive Excel-based assessment tool for evaluating an existing water strategy or building one from the ground up. The Aqua Gauge helps companies:

  • Frame and assess options for managing water risk.
  • Prioritize and improve responses to water risk.
  • Communicate key water risk information to stakeholders.

Global Water Footprint Assessment Standard

The Water Footprint Assessment is a four-phase process that quantifies and maps green, blue and grey water footprints, assesses the sustainability, efficiency and equitability of water use and identifies which strategic actions should be prioritised in order to make a footprint sustainable.

Indian Water Tool

The India Water Tool is an online tool for companies and other users to understand their water-related risks and prioritize actions toward sustainable water management. It combines data from Indian government agencies and water stress indicators from WRI and the Columbia Water Centre.