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Corporations See Water Scarcity as Business Risk

scarcityCompanies including AT&T, Deloitte, MillerCoors and Veolia see water scarcity as a business risk and a barrier to economic growth, according to a blog by Environmental Defense Fund on a recent meeting involving those parties aimed at tackling water scarcity issues.

Major nonprofits, water technicians and corporations met at the daylong event at the Pacific Institute in Los Angeles to “hone in” on shared solutions to the shared problems water scarcity poses to business and the environment, the blog says.

Among the big ideas discussed was the need to move away from traditional thinking. The Pacific Institute‘s water director, Heather Cooley, highlighted the limits of using old ways of thinking to solve contemporary problems. Many other participants agreed that traditional approaches to water management such as large centralized infrastructures and finding new sources of water — such as groundwater — are less important now than concentrating on water efficiency, improving data collection and monitoring and collecting storm water, according to the blog.

Collaboration was also a key idea discussed. MillerCoors’ location in the Irwindale section of Los Angeles collaborates with municipal water suppliers and local farmers to plant tall native vegetation, retrofit irrigation systems and implement best practices for water management upstream, ensuring that the brewery and farmers get the water they needs. These efforts have helped MillerCoors as a company reduce water use by 1.1 billion gallons. The blog does not state over what time period that reduction took place.

The scarcity of data on water use is a huge issue, the blog says. Many water users that do collect data are reluctant to release data publicly and there are currently a lack of standardized data collection. The old mantra, “if you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it” comes into play here. Stakeholders will have to start sharing data if major steps are going to be taken, the blog says.

Most companies believe water challenges will significantly worsen in the next five years, according to a survey of major US corporations by the Pacific Institute and VOX Global that was released in May.

However, the majority of companies surveyed do not appear to be planning to scale up their water risk management practices — about 70 percent of responding companies said their current level of investment in water management is sufficient.

Picture credit: Drought land so long waterless via Shutterstock

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