Is your business taking water for granted?
In most developed nations, clean, safe drinking water is so cheap and abundant that we use it to flush toilets and water lawns. But in many parts of the world, water is a scarce and precious resource. And as global water use continues to rise, we believe water management is becoming a strategic business issue — even for companies headquartered in areas where water is plentiful.
Global water use has more than doubled over the past 50 years, thanks to rapid population growth and the emergence of developing economies in pursuit of a modern, high-consumption lifestyle. Meanwhile, the supply of clean, safe water is shrinking.
Water is the ultimate renewable resource, but it’s not unlimited. The Earth doesn’t create new water — it just continuously recycles the water that already exists. Underground sources that have been accumulating for thousands of years are being sucked dry, and surface sources are being steadily destroyed by urban development and pollution. If these trends continue, forecasts predict that by 2030, half the world’s population will suffer from a shortage of water.
When water is cheap and readily available, most businesses don’t give it a second thought. But as demand outstrips supply, the true value of water quickly becomes apparent, especially because business uses tend to be a lower priority than supplying citizens with water and food. If demand for clean water exceeds the planet’s natural capacity to regenerate it — or we pollute our water sources beyond repair — businesses can expect to face severe shortages and skyrocketing prices.
Food and beverage companies obviously need to worry about water. But they aren’t alone. Other industries that are also heavily dependent on water include everything from agriculture and energy to pharmaceuticals, mineral extraction and semiconductor manufacturing. And when you get right down to it, every business in every industry relies on water to operate in one way or another.