New content added on conservation, valuation, measuring and managing water use, coastal ecosytems and communities, and the role of water utilities in the future.
Transforming water data into actionable insights
Transforming water data into actionable insights
As populations rise and urbanization trends continue, water utilities are finding it increasingly difficult to meet growing demand for water resources and the growing effects population growth poses to the environment and economy.
The Sonoma County region is the heart of Northern California’s wine country. Faced with issues of water stress, the Sonoma County Water Agency (SCWA) recognized the need for more information to help make better decisions.
For this reason, SCWA teamed up with IBM
to collect and analyze data on water usage, quality, weather and climate, and environmental considerations. This information, gathered in close to real-time, helps the utility identify defective meters by analyzing consumption patterns and helps avoid the high cost of responding to disruptions through the prediction of potential failures. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) estimates that more than one third of water utilities are faced with aging infrastructure. In these utilities, more than 20 percent of the pipelines are nearing the end of their useful lives.
[aside]SEE ALSO: The Value of Water in the U.S.: Improving Water Infrastructure is Imperative
Analyzing this data has allowed Sonoma County to facilitate proactive maintenance and reduce water loss through automatic leak detection and pressure management. It's also increased energy and monetary savings.
Real-time information helps make better decisions about resource allocation as stakeholders can quickly identify and address specific issues. By better anticipating future demands, including seasonal peaks, information technology and collaborative innovation are helping communities, businesses and governments deal with complex water issues and to set accurate rate prices and target conservation initiatives.
IBM Smarter Water Management
Sonoma County Water Agency
The Water Resources Utility of the Future: A Blueprint for Action
WBCSD Report Demonstrates Why and How Companies can Integrate True Water Values and Costs into Decision-Making
Water Valuation – Building the Business Case
is a report by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD
) and reviews more than twenty business case studies. It reveals that while companies both impact and depend upon water - they can also play a positive role in managing its sustainable use.
While water availability is becoming increasingly limited, the demand and the risks for businesses are also increasing. The report states that by looking at the value of the water used and by understanding the impacts and dependency they have on the resource, businesses can better inform management actions and limit wasteful practices. With some industries predicted to increase their water demand up to 400% by 2050 the environmental, social as well as economic implications must begin to be taken into account as well.
[aside]SEE ALSO: Economic Impact of the Great Lakes: Water Supplies Play a Role in Local Economy
The case studies show how undertaking water-related valuation will provide better data and understanding to inform better decisions on option appraisals, water use efficiency, water allocation and shared value, pricing for water usage, water services and products, damage and compensation assessments, sustainable financing options, conservation actions and offsetting and reporting performance. These in turn will result in enhanced decision-making, maintained and enhanced revenues, reduced costs, well managed risks, and enhanced reputation.
All businesses depend and impact on water in some way, either directly or indirectly. Read the report to learn how businesses conducted water valuations and the results it provided in terms of increased demands, dwindling supply, clean and safe water investments, climate change and other applications in decision-making.
Efforts to Encourage Homes and Businesses to Use Water More Sustainably
The European Environment Agency (EEA) stated in a 2012 report that the continent’s water resources were getting worse and continued inefficient use of water could threaten Europe’s economy, productivity and ecosystems. It went on to explain that there are opportunities to enhance the use of the scarce resource that are both environmentally sustainable and economically viable. The United Kingdom’s Energy Saving Trust and Carbon Trust are two organizations that are working to tackle water waste at the home as well as business level. They recognized that while measuring energy efficiency and managing carbon footprints have become standard around the world there is a need to address the country’s water footprint.
The Energy Saving Trust has developed an online Water CO2 Calculator that helps people work out how much CO2 is being emitted to heat water in their homes. By providing this tool to the public they hope to raise awareness on the important link between water efficiency and energy efficiency. The Trust estimates that heating water accounts for about 30% of the average household’s energy bill and 6% of the nation’s total CO2 emissions, and thus water use is the “forgotten energy saving opportunity” by homes, businesses and policy makers.
[aside]SEE ALSO: Switzerland is Experiencing its Lowest Hydro Reserve Levels in More Than a Decade
Recognizing that business leaders did not see water as a priority issue, the UK’s Carbon Trust has developed and launched a Water Standard. This will require firms to measure water use and demonstrate efforts taken to reduce consumption. With the EEA report forecasting an increase in water use and an estimated 60% of European cities already consuming water faster that it can be replenished, the Water Standard provides an incentive for creating longer-term water efficiency solutions. To be awarded the Carbon trust Water Standard, businesses will need to show that on a year-to-year basis they are reducing both input water use and effluent.
At the moment most countries are coping by 'borrowing' water supplies from non-replenishable aquifers or from water reserved for environmental needs without any significant penalty, an approach that is clearly not a long-term solution. With very few entities measuring water use and even fewer setting targets to reduce consumption, these organizations are helping move society in the right direction by making water sustainability a beneficial strategy for gaining competitive advantage in a market that is faced with water risks.
Water Energy Calculator
Carbon Trust Water Standard
EEA Recognizes Water Managing Potentials
In a recent piece in Environmental Leader,
I argue that countries and industries that want to remain competitive must manage their water effectively.