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Cross-sector cooperation needed for water management

A new report says cooperation between stakeholders in the UK is vital in securing future water supplies and managing water better. The “Sink or Swim” report from the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL) calls for increased cooperation between businesses, water companies and governments.

“Sink or Swim”, from the Cambridge-hosted Natural Capital Leaders Platform, is the result of a collaboration between nine companies across six sectors – water companies, farmers, financial institutions, retailers, real estate service providers, and engineering consultancies – that examined new strategies to manage one of the world’s most crucial resources – water. The report was launched at the Royal Society in London in June.

In the recent World Economic Forum “Global Risks 2013” report, Chief Executives said they regarded water availability as one of the top five global risks to business. Water remains an economically strategic resource and a core element of natural capital that underpins many business activities.

The report argues that while water scarcity poses a threat to both communities and businesses, a water secure world would mean the end to fragmented responsibility for water, with resource management being integrated across all sectors. To achieve this, water companies, businesses and government agencies need to collaborate.

Peter Simpson, Chief Executive of Anglian Water, who spoke at the Royal Society launch said: “Ensuring that water is carefully stewarded and available in sufficient quantity and quality is a vital component of business success. Water scarcity can damage productivity, disrupt supply chains, put water users in competition with each other and, ultimately, harm corporate trust and
reputation. These risks impact sectors in many different ways, but collaboration and innovation are absolutely key to achieving resilience and to protecting the economy.”

The report, which seeks to enhance the resilience of various stakeholders to water shortages, includes four new financial models. Each model offers an innovative approach to achieving multi-sector water investments, encouraging joint investment by multiple stakeholders, including water companies, retailers and farmers.

Chris Brown, Sustainable Business Director at supermarket chain Asda, said: “Inconsistent or unreliable supply of produce – caused by water scarcity or flooding – has a direct impact on supply chains. Retailers cannot act alone to manage necessary water supplies: a collaborative approach is needed, which is why we are pleased to be part of this initiative.”

The report concludes: “The time is now right for businesses and government to work together to address the increasing demand for water resources. This collaboration has opened the door for business to build coherent water investment and management strategies with government to generate a secure supply of water which will create resilience and reduce risks across multiple sectors.”

Download the full report from the CISL here:
http://www.cisl.cam.ac.uk/natcap

Xylem is part of a similar collaboration in the US called The Value of Water Coalition. Read more about it here: http://thevalueofwater.org/

by Simon