It is possible to meet your sustainability targets while reducing water risks. Cress Consulting CEO Julia Seddon writes about the opportunities in water management. This article was first published in Food & Drink Business September/October 2020.
It’s great to see so many organisations working to reduce carbon emissions in line with ambitious emission reduction targets.
Australasian brewer Lion was featured in the March edition of Food & Drink Business describing how it is working towards a goal of zero net emissions, further establishing Lion as an industry leader.
In a similar vein, many businesses are also looking to water and setting similarly ambitious targets around sustainable water use.
Australians live on the driest continent on earth, enduring long periods of drought and devastating floods. We know that climate change is leading to further drying, less reliable rainfall, more frequent drought as well as more intense and damaging rainfall events.
These challenges provide an abundance of opportunity to improve approaches to water management for long term economic, environmental and social sustainability.
Many in the food and beverage industry operate large water using facilities, where significant volumes of water are used in processing and production. The production of agricultural inputs can also require large amounts of water and supply can be significantly disrupted by droughts and floods.
So, how do we manage the risk of reducing water security while at the same time ensure there is enough water for other businesses, the community and the environment, and meet our sustainability targets in relation to water?
A global framework
The international Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS) has established a robust consistent framework that business can use to effectively and efficiently assess their water risks.
Just as a carbon footprint helps identify hot spots of carbon intensity, a water footprint can highlight where inputs or processes may be subject to water supply risks especially where there is no reliable alternative supply. A catchment analysis can help identify risks within the operating and input supply catchments in terms of quantity quality as well as environmental conditions and community.
Water stewardship is different to other water management approaches because it takes the catchment context into account, making it specific to the location (or locations) a business operates in or sources raw materials from.
A low cost, low commitment exercise that provides significant benefit is to undertake a gap review against the first step in the AWS standard. This involves:
- a site description that includes water related data (water sources, volumes consumed, costs, treatment processes and discharge criteria);
- a stakeholder map;
- a water balance including direct and indirect water use;
- obtaining information on the catchment water resources including important or sensitive water environments and management frameworks; and
- identifying any relevant best practices or benchmarks.
Understanding the true cost of water and water-related services adds value to any organisation. The analysis gives a good indication of how sustainable an operation currently is and what actions could be taken to: reduce risks; take advantage of opportunities; improve water security; reduce costs; increase efficiency; or improve water governance.
This assessment can then be used to prioritise the site’s water risks and opportunities, as well as identifying options to manage the challenges and realise the possibilities.
At Cress Consulting, we help clients undertake this assessment, putting them in a more powerful position to determine the next step in securing the future water supply for their operation or business.