Water shortage is a very complex issue with a broad global impact. To discuss the impact to industry, I’ve invited Ashutosh (Rish) Riswadkar to blog on this topic. Retired from Zurich, Rish has over 30 years of product safety and loss prevention experience in the insurance industry, and he has written numerous articles in publications such as Best’s Review.
Escalating drought and water crisis in California and many western states are resulting in increased concern over water scarcity and its potential adverse socio-economic impact on industry and society. Growing water scarcity has become a global challenge that needs local solutions focusing on water stewardship and water management, not to mention wide stakeholder participation.
In addition to unpredictable precipitation and climate change, the trends for urban migration, lifestyle changes, population growth and industrialization are key factors affecting water supplies. For businesses that rely on water as a strategic resource, the risks associated with water shortage can be direct or indirect and will vary by type of business. All businesses, however, will be adversely impacted to some extent by physical, regulatory, reputational or litigation risks, emphasizing the importance of undertaking a robust assessment of current and anticipated water risks.
Assessing business risks
Assessing current and anticipated water risks and conserving water are not one-time efforts. Ongoing collaboration and coordination of water management and stewardship efforts by all stakeholders is needed to meet this global challenge with local on-the-ground solutions. In addition to conservation efforts, desalination and other innovative solutions may have to be considered in cases of chronic water shortage.
Strategies for water management
Conservation strategies for dealing with water shortage will be different for each industrial, commercial and institutional business, yet experts recommend to any business the following best practices for water management:
- Make a commitment to water stewardship and appoint a champion from senior management, both on-site and company-wide.
- Build alliances with all regional stakeholders to coordinate, collaborate and share good water governance practices and sustainable water balance plans for the region.
- Identify your critical water-intensive processes and assess your on-site water utilization. Consider a water accounting program, including installation of water meters.
- Implement a water management and conservation plan:
- Set and measure base-line levels for water conservation benchmark goals.
- Raise awareness and involve your employees.
- Identify and prioritize opportunities for water conservation.
- Regularly inspect your systems for leaks, and promptly repair them.
- Install water-efficient devices, such as auto shut-off valves and low-flow devices.
- Measure and monitor your progress using appropriate tools.
- Communicate and publicize your successes and results.
Besides these overarching best practices, each type of business may have more specific opportunities to recycle, reclaim, reuse and reduce water consumption.
Risk managers and business leaders, who have long relied on a continued supply of water, need to revise their risk management and long-term planning processes to include the reality and new “normal” of water scarcity.
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