Tracking Corporate Water Impacts
Water is an essential part of life but we often take water for granted, with little idea about where our water goes or how we can use it more carefully. Change is in the wind though, as more and more people and organizations are looking at water differently. Where many once thought that our supply of water was endless, a growing number of companies, individuals, governments, and others are finding ways to use water wisely, starting with tracking the water we use.
Industrial users are large consumers of water, and for some like beverage producers water is a central part of their business. Water conservation doesn’t always get as much attention as energy efficiency, but tracking and improving water use is a crucial aspect of corporate sustainability programs of all shapes and sizes. The increasing cost of freshwater also makes the management of water use essential for the mitigation of risk for companies that use water in their operations. Highlighting the importance of water conservation, over 1200 companies have signed up for voluntary reporting of their water impacts to CDP Water.
While improving water use is a great goal, many users don’t understand where they are using water, making it hard for them to do better. Having better tools to deal with this problem would help everyone involved.
Paul Koch, an industrial water engineer with many years of experience in Maryland is working to address long term water resources interests. Koch has found that some of the biggest challenges facing water users include gathering quality data on water use, and tracking costs. He has also observed that one of the key trends helping to address these challenges is automated data collection and analysis. “The goal is not just to produce data, but to inform water management decisions,” said Koch.
Regional influences can also be a big factor in how water use is viewed and how water conservation is implemented. The impact of water conservation in the US Southwest is very different than in the Northwest. Water use must be viewed and interpreted in this context.
As the editor at Water Canada, Kerry Freek is well aware of the many challenges facing those working to improve water use, including regional differences in water availability and attitudes about water. It’s easy for many to think that water is a limitless resource in Canada, which makes it an even greater challenge to motivate people to improve how it is used there. Water in Canada is cheap compared to many areas, and the cheaper the water, the less the urge people feel to conserve. “There’s a big correlation between cost and consumption,” said Freek.
Influences like this are strong, but not insurmountable. Things that can influence behavior to encourage water conservation include changes in regulations that affect the cost of water, good education, and good information. Monitoring and tracking water use and costs, is again a part of this story. “Monitoring and measuring is a good thing”, said Freek. “That will make a difference, helping people to weigh the costs and benefits with real numbers to back it up.”
AcquaSolve, produced by the company enviroBYTES, is a software tool to automate data gathering about water use from many different sources. AcquaSolve can not only automate data gathering to track water use, but help users view the impact of water use in the context of water resources in that region. As the CEO of enviroBYTES, Ted Dhillon is working hard to roll out their product with a growing number of users, helping them to tackle the challenge of water conservation in their own organization.
“Converting operational water flows and consumption information into water footprints and other sustainability impacts is challenging,” said Dhillon. “We can take the complexities of data capture, calculations, analysis, and strategy building out of the equation with out software, ultimately reducing the time and cost of managing water resources from a sustainability standpoint.”
As the importance of water as a precious resource becomes increasingly important around the world, tools like AquaSolve will help people and companies around the world to do a better job at managing this resource for the benefit of us all.
Glenn Croston is the author of “The Real Story of Risk”, and “75 Green Businesses You Can Start to Make Money and Make a Difference” and the founder of Starting Up Green