H20 Matters: Sustainable Water Management 101

Catherine Osborne

Assessing the risks associated with how we manage and use water in the United States and around the world has become an increasingly hot topic. Water policymakers predict that if current trends in climate change, population growth and consumption continue, nearly two-thirds of the world’s population will face a lack of water within 10-20 years. We are making collective progress towards risk mitigation and reduced consumption, but much more needs to be done. At the facility and portfolio level, water efficiency and conservation is our greatest resource.

Recently, I co-presented on the ENGIE Insight-sponsored webinar, ‘Blue Is the New Gold: What You Need to Know About Sustainable Water Management’. The webinar was focused on equipping commercial, industrial, and institutional organizations with sustainable water management strategies and tactics, as well as tools and resources to manage water cost. The webinar also offered insight into current water trends, cost drivers and the identification of physical and regulatory water-related risk.

I wanted to share some of those insights with you – and also invite you to watch the 30-minute on-demand version of the webinar in its entirety. The “Best Practices” section offers many examples of behavioral changes and low-cost tactics that you can implement to begin conserving and efficiently managing water.

Aggregated data shows that while water consumption is down by six percent, cost per unit has climbed more than 45 percent in the past seven years1. Even though organizations are consuming less, their water expenses have increased from 8.5 percent of annual utility spend in 2008 to over 11 percent in 2015.

“Water cost per unit has climbed more than 45% in seven years.”

Water markets are far less sophisticated than electricity and natural gas markets. Multiple factors contribute to the rising cost of water – some impossible to ignore, others relatively invisible. All of these factors are tied back to an outdated and failing water infrastructure. Utilities are in debt and out of funding and are therefore raising rates as a way to fund necessary repair and replacement projects.

water-related risk

Water-related risk– typically defined as an increase in operating costs or a reduction in brand attractiveness as the result of a change in water quality, quantity or water-related regulation– can translate into a reputational risk for your business. If you have not already begun to identify high-risk sites in your portfolio, I encourage you to perform a risk assessment and begin to develop a risk mitigation plan.

The path toward sustainable water management is full of complexities, unknowns and challenges, but by leveraging data and insights, you can take action to move further down the path to a better future.

I hope you enjoy the webinar and find it informative. To receive personal invites to sustainability webinars, please subscribe here. We hope to see you at future webinars!

1ENGIE Insight (formerly Ecova) aggregated data from North American organizations

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