7 water saving strategies for your business
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Water is vital to sustaining our society, but we are pushing some resources to their limits.
In the United States, the Colorado River, the main source of water for seven states including California, is dropping dangerously low due to poor river management and a drought that has lasted more than two decades.
Lake Powell, a retention basin for the Colorado River’s outflow, is perilously close to a “dead basin” where the water level becomes so low that no water can flow downstream. If Lake Powel dries up, the consequences will be immediate and far-reaching, as Colorado supports a $1.4 trillion economy and 16 million jobs.
A dry Colorado River would affect drinking water, sanitation, agriculture, manufacturing, and even electricity, as Lake Powel provides electricity to more than 4.5 million people.
Related: 5 Ways Technology Can Help Save Water; Here’s how!
Water scarcity does not only affect the USA. From South Africa to Chile, countries around the world are struggling with water scarcity. Today, 450 million children live in areas with high or extremely high water hazard.
But here’s some encouraging news. Water scarcity does not have to be inevitable. As governments work to renegotiate better water management, businesses can take steps to avoid a real water crisis and prepare for water shortages to come.
1. Use a behavior change to conserve water
From washing hands to watering plants, all businesses use water. Non-manufacturing businesses may not have large daily water uses, so encouraging employees to be more conscious about their water use can be one of the most effective ways to conserve water.
The Queensland Business Bureau offers suggestions to support businesses such as:
- Create a people-led water conservation initiative.
- Establish a company-wide water use goal.
- Appoint a “Water Master” to review and monitor progress.
- Provide information on “water wise use”. This can include education about how much water goes into products like paper (2 liters per sheet!).
Businesses can also learn lessons from the behavior change campaigns that Cape Town ran during the water crisis. To encourage all residents to use no more than 100 liters per person per day, Cape Town helped residents quantify water use with online calculators and campaigns that illustrated different ways to measure a liter of water. Setting an actionable goal and teaching people how to measure that goal are the keys to success.
Related: 6 sensible ways to reduce your company’s carbon footprint
2. Invest in technology to increase water efficiency
Your first step in investing in water-saving technology can be surprisingly simple: routinely check for leaks and learn how to fix them. Real-time leak detection systems can help monitor pipes and faucets that you don’t see regularly, like those under your sink or behind your toilets. There are also apps to monitor your water usage through your utility company. Regardless of the method, finding and preventing leaks can save gallons of water every day.
Installing a water fountain for employees that tracks how many water bottles are saved can reduce plastic use. While we know that single-use plastic bottles create excess waste, plastic water bottles also contribute to water wastage, using 1.39 liters of water for every liter bottle produced.
3. Understand the impact on your supply chain
Given the importance of water as a resource, understanding how much different products contribute to your water footprint will help prevent a water crisis and save money. The Water Footprint Calculator helps companies and entrepreneurs to better understand the water footprint of different products.
Waterprints consist of three parts. Green water footprints show stormwater consumption, blue water footprints surface and groundwater consumption, and gray water footprints surface and groundwater pollution. By understanding how much water different products use, you can choose products that use less water and are likely to be cheaper.
Related: Role of startups in creating sustainable water solutions
4. Build a low water consumption business
Some industries have exceptionally high levels of water use, including agriculture, clothing, beverages, biotechnology, and electric power. These industries are also vital to modern existence. Disruptive companies that find new alternatives to water-intensive business models will thrive.
As water levels continue to fall, farmers will be hit particularly hard, as agriculture accounts for 70% of global water use. AI and other emerging technologies may enable “precision farming,” which carefully monitors how much water plants need at any given time. These technologies will be critical to the future of agriculture. Innovators should also look for sustainable fashion initiatives to find potential business opportunities.
5. Support technologies that create more sustainable water systems
Where there is a problem, there is an opportunity to invent a solution. Technologies like Hawa Water are fighting water scarcity in the UAE by harvesting drinking water directly from the air. Even governments are getting creative. After the aquifers are pumped dry, cities turn to aquifer projects and other man-made interventions to refill them.
As the crisis deepens, governments are providing funding for startups with creative solutions. India, for example, has 18% of the world’s population but only 4% of its water supply. The country’s Clean Water For All challenge calls on Indian entrepreneurs to envision, test and scale up solutions that will help tackle the subcontinent’s water challenges.
Related: Alleviating the impending water scarcity through sustainable water resource management
6. Invest money in good water management
Investing in companies that are committed to good water governance and don’t rely on outrageous amounts of water might be a better choice in the long run. Not only does it help safeguard the world’s precious water supplies, but it also ensures that rising water prices do not ultimately wipe out your investments. Groups like Fidelity have compiled guides for investing in companies that take the future of water seriously.
7. The future of water is the future of business
Water affects business in more ways than you can imagine. In addition to all of the above, the low water levels along the Mississippi River recently caused 3,000 barges to back up, affecting how quickly people could get their goods.
When companies think about adapting to an ever-changing world, they need to pay attention to the world of water, as it does far more than keep us alive. Water generates electricity, prevents disease, grows food, manufactures goods, cools computers and keeps modern society moving.
Related: This ex-Google employee is scientifically restoring India’s freshwater body