Some 15 leading businesses, representing 11 different sectors, including Baxter Healthcare, Sainsbury’s, GlaxoSmithKline and Nestlé, have committed to looking at their carbon-water management holistically, following research by sustainability specialists Anthesis and the Water Footprint Network.
Businesses and governments must tackle energy and water use in tandem or risk major disruption, according to Energising the drops: Towards a Holistic Approach to Carbon and Water Footprint Assessments.
Considering water and carbon footprints in isolation as increasing demand for water places pressure on energy usage. Population increase, varying levels of precipitation and energy-intensive urbanization are all placing strain on water supplies, the report says.
Current solutions, including pumping water from lower groundwater tables and desalination, require vast amounts of energy. With their use likely to increase in the coming decades, managing the dynamic between carbon and water use will be essential, the report says
However, according to separate recent research by the Carbon Disclosure Project, only 63 percent of major companies have taken steps to manage the business risks associated with increasing energy and water use.
The report details a five-step plan for tackling the problem:
- Step 1: Prioritising where to work
- Step 2: Formulating response strategies
- Step 3: Assessing trade-offs & synergies
- Step 4: Developing a holistic strategy
- Step 5: Taking strategic action
The full list of companies committed to the project reads: Baxter Healthcare, Buro Happold, Sainsbury’s, Boots UK, Crown Paints, C&A, CLS Holdings, GlaxoSmithKline, Nestlé, Nokia and Tata Cleantech Capital.
At the start of the year, The World Bank launched its “Thirsty Energy” initiative aimed at highlighting the inter-connectivity of energy and water use. The initiative aims to provide countries with assessment tools and management frameworks to help governments coordinate decision-making when planning for future energy and water infrastructure.
Another key point from this initiative is that while a global water crisis is looming, many countries are already facing challenges to their electricity supplies. Several areas in the US that are not considered water-stressed have already been experiencing rolling black-outs and brown-outs due to historic droughts, the report says, according to Kate Zerrenner, project manager in the areas of energy efficiency and climate change with the EDF, whose blog on the subject was recently republished by EL’s sister web site Energy Manager Today.