Sustainable water resource management is the next major global target that will lead corporations, governments, and others to develop system-wide solutions for water, public health, carbon, and energy use. A standardized and certifiable water footprint methodology is necessary to measure, assess, and reduce water usage impacts on humans and the environment. This discussion addresses the issues, risks, and methodologies leading the development of sustainable water management programs.
Is Water the ‘Next Carbon’?
Sustainable water is a term used by many different stakeholders in many different ways. The term links water resources with the sustainable management of water supply, usage, and discharge. As we work to conserve and preserve our water resources, concerns vary in degree of importance. For industry, especially those with high consumption levels, availability, reliability, and quality are the primary concerns. For municipalities, availability, reliability, and protection of quality are the key issues. For both public and private entities, the definition of risk tolerance will define how to manage water in a sustainable manner. For the public, conservation is paramount. As with carbon, water has become a global issue.
The availability and quality of water has been a concern for many years. Water management practices are often hindered by ownership issues and water “rights” that are not clearly defined. Various government agencies manage quality through regulatory processes; however, no single agency is mandated to control the supply, address the cumulative impacts at the watershed level, and manage water availability. One agency may approve or permit consumption while others may permit discharge or govern quality. Water scarcity driven by frequent droughts in many parts of the world is intensified by over allocation and unchecked consumption.