Water stewardship moves beyond water efficiency building knowledge and understanding collaboratively to improve the way the water your business relies on is managed. Increasing the security of your water supply without impacting others can help reduce the risk of water scarcity to your operations. The use of water that is socially and culturally equitable, environmentally sustainable and economically beneficial is achieved through a stakeholder-inclusive process that includes both site and catchment-based actions.
The fundamentals of water stewardship include consideration of issues such as:
- Water use and management
- Security of water source and disposal options
- Identifying and managing wastewater disposal options
- Working within the constraints of your catchment for long term success
- Stakeholder consultation and collaboration
- Understanding the impacts of climate change on water resources and management
- Cost control and optimisation
- Risk assessment and management
- Water banking, rain farming, sustainable solutions for all
The international Alliance of Water Stewardship defines water stewardship as the use of water that is socially and culturally equitable, environmentally sustainable and economically beneficial. Stewardship means taking care of something that we do not own and is often used to describe the responsible planning and management of natural resources. Good water stewards recognise the need for collective responses to the complex challenges facing the water resources we all rely on. Practically it means being a good water manager and having a good understanding of water risks related to your site and its catchment.
A water stewardship program will help your business by identifying and managing the water risks that could impact your operations or ability to operate. Risks that impact quality, quantity and the cost of available water are increasing around the world as a consequence of the water crisis and are being amplified by climate change. Addressing water risks is increasingly important to reduce financial and reputational pressure and ensure businesses are acting responsibly. Using a water stewardship framework allows any water user, anywhere in the world to demonstrate their commitment to addressing the global water crisis.
A water stewardship approach can create the following benefits:
- Increased efficiency, potentially creating financial savings.
- Mitigation of identified existing and potential risks at a site and catchment level.
- Empowering the site to engage catchment stakeholders to address shared water challenges, strengthening stakeholder relationships and building community trust.
- Improving local water quality and availability benefiting the site, its community and the environment.
- Credible demonstration of your commitment to sustainable water management.
- Protecting socially and culturally important water-related areas.
- Providing a common framework to understand water risk across the company.
- Making credible, independently verifiable sustainable water management claims via third-party certification.
- Generate useful information for disclosure mechanisms including the CDP and for investors.
- Demonstration of action on SDG 6. ensure availability and sustainable management of clean water and sanitation for all.
Companies with a good understanding of the importance of water to their business and an appreciation of the water risks that threaten ongoing production and business viability are drawn to water stewardship as a set of globally applicable tools for sustainable water management increasing their water security as well as contributing the economic, social and environmental sustainability of water within the catchment they share with other industries, business, communities and the environment.
Certification is an easy way to show customers, employees, the community and your investors that you not only take your sustainability obligations seriously but that you are also addressing key issues that have the potential to significantly impact the long term viability of your operations. Being a certified water steward is a tangible example of your commitment to sustainable water management. It is risk management in action and can serve as a proxy for broader sustainability objectives.
AWS certification means you can make credible, independently verifiable claims about sustainable water management. The certification logo can be used in branding, marketing and other communications to verify that your site meets globally recognised best practice and is taking practical steps to confront water risks.
Certification is awarded after successful completion of an audit against the AWS standard. You can choose where to start, some start with a brief training session to increase their understanding of what water stewardship is and how the standard works, whereas others prefer to start with a gaps analysis of their operation against the key elements of the standard. Both approaches are valid although we consider the gaps review is the most useful. An AWS Accredited Service Provider or a Professionally Credentialed Individual can support you in this. They can also assist in the implementation of the Standard through to certification.
A mix of global and homegrown brands across a wide range of sectors have achieved water stewardship certification. Examples include Apple, Google, Nestle, Coca Cola, Ecolab, Olam, Inghams, Diagio and Renmark Irrigation Trust
The costs involved with implementing the Standard broadly fall under the following categories:
- Staff training and capacity building (to improve internal skills relating to water stewardship).
- Implementation support from AWS Accredited Service Providers or Professionally Credentialed Individuals.
- Costs related to activities undertaken as part of the implementation process.
- Certification costs.
Absolutely. Certification is not for everyone but the water stewardship framework can benefit every water using business no matter where they are located.
Yes, AWS is suitable for businesses and organisations of all sizes.
Cress Consulting is a specialist provider of sustainability services and an experienced water stewardship credentialed specialist offering consulting, training and auditing services. Cress understands how water risk can impact business operations and supply chains and its social licence to operate. We can help you determine the next step in securing the future water supply to improve the resilience of your operation or business.
There is a global water crisis and as a consequence our water resources are under increasing pressure. There is an urgent need to work together to ensure the sustainability of this vital resource on which we all depend. Putting the principles of good water stewardship into action can help ensure that water use for human and economic purposes is sustainable, doesn’t deplete the water resource or cause harm to the natural environment. A robust water stewardship framework can also help identify opportunities to improve water management for long term economic, environmental and social prosperity.