3. The WBCSD Global Water Tool©
Water is recognized as a critical sustainable development challenge that has intrinsic links to energy, biodiversity, food security and climate change. It is predicted that by 2030, the world will need 30 percent more available fresh water and will need to produce 50 percent more food and energy, while mitigating and adapting to climate change. This threatens to create a ‘perfect storm’ of global events.
Currently, global per capita availability of freshwater is steadily decreasing and this trend will inevitably continue with population growth and increased consumption. In some parts of the world, locally available fresh water resources are already exceeded by local demand and we can anticipate increased competition and even conflict for freshwater resources. As a consequence, water availability, quality and security challenges are evident and visible on the full range of political and regulatory agendas.
WBCSD's Global Water Tool is a free and easy-to-use tool that helps companies and organizations compare their water use, wastewater discharge, and facility information with validated watershed and country-level data. This process is intended to allow companies to conduct an initial high-level assessment of relative water risks in order to identify risk “hotspots”. The tool was developed in 2007 and was revised in 2009, 2010 and 2011 and is based on nearly 30 external datasets on water availability, sanitation, population, and biodiversity information, among other things.
The Global Water Tool allows companies to quickly and accurately answer such key questions as:
• How many of our sites are in extremely water-scarce areas? Which sites are at greatest risk? How will that look in the future?
• How many of our employees live in countries that lack access to improved water and sanitation?
• How many of our suppliers are in water-scarce areas now? How many will be in 2025? How many of our total production is generated from our most at risk sites?
Through an easy to manage process, the tool allows companies to quickly and accurately:
• Compare their water use (including staff presence, industrial use, and supply chain) with validated water and sanitation availability, biodiversity and population information, both on a country and watershed basis;
• Calculate water consumption and efficiency;
• Establish relative water risks in their portfolio;
• Create key water Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) indicators, inventories, risk and performance metrics;
• Enable effective communications between internal and external stakeholders on water issues.
The tool has two parts: the input sheet and the online map. The input sheet contains the company's site location and water use information. After entering the company's water use figures, the sheet automatically provides outputs, including GRI water indicators and downloadable metrics charts that demonstrate the company's data combined with both the country and watershed figures.
The online mapping feature enables companies to plot their sites with external water datasets and download those locations in a map. These datasets provide several key metrics including renewable water resource per capita, mean annual relative water stress index and access to improved sanitation. The tool is connected with Google Earth, which provides spatial viewing of a company's site locations in relation to detailed geographic information, including surface water.
Key benefits expressed by the companies that have already taken advantage of the GWT:
• Establishes relative water risks in a company’s portfolio in order to prioritize action
• Can be used in combination with other tools to aid decision-making such as a company’s internal environmental data tracking tool
• Enables effective communication with both internal and external stakeholders
• Assists with long term water management strategy and can be used as a strategic tool during the evaluation of new project developments
For companies facing the challenge of operating in multiple countries with very different water contexts, the Global Water Tool is really the first critical step in making water-informed decisions.
The GWT is connected to GEMI’s Local Water Tool™, a free tool developed in cooperation with WBCSD which allows companies to evaluate external impacts, business risks, opportunities and management plans related to water use and discharge at a specific site or operation. The outputs of the GWT can feed automatically into the LWT – together providing a comprehensive package for corporate water risk management.
Why it should be recognized:
The tool helps companies better manage their water use and better local management leads to better global management. It quickly screens and prioritizes corporate water-related risk, and provides future outlook up to the year 2050. The GWT has been used by more than 300 companies since its launch in 2007. Its widespread applicability has enabled companies from very diverse sectors – i.e. from mining to consumer goods – to find value in its utilization. The tool has increasingly been recognized as the best available approach for companies to assess corporate water-related risks, improve decision-making, shape water management plans, and strengthen communications with internal and external stakeholders on water issues.
The GWT generates key water metrics that describe water use, production intensity, and risk, as well as reporting indicators from Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) Water, Bloomberg, and Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI) that help businesses report to their stakeholders about their water performance and risks. It also delivers charts and maps that can further help companies communicate with their stakeholders. Analysis resulting from implementation of the Global Water Tool has led to a realization of the importance of the water, energy, food nexus which has become an area of focus for the WBCSD Water team. A report on business solutions that address the water, energy and food nexus is in the works for 2013.