The World Resources Institute (WRI) launched an online tool last week that uses current, high-resolution data to map water risk worldwide. The Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas is intended to help companies, investors and governments gauge how water stress will affect operations locally and globally, allowing them to prioritize investments to increase water security.
WRI developed the tool alongside members of the Aqueduct Alliance, including GE, Goldman Sachs, Shell, Bloomberg, Talisman Energy, John Deere and the governments of Holland and Sweden.
Aqueduct is a customizable global map based on 12 indicators of physical, regulatory, and reputational risk. Companies can evaluate how water stress, flood occurrence, access to water, drought and other issues may affect operations. The global map also can be tailored specifically for nine water-intense industry sectors — from oil and gas to agriculture and chemicals.
Through the Atlas, users can plot the locations that matter most to them — from facilities to suppliers and potential new markets or proposed power plants — and compare those locations’ potential exposure to water stress and risk. They also can review maps of individual indicators, such as seasonal variability, which may be highly important to their operations.
McDonalds has asked 353 of its global suppliers’ facilities to use Aqueduct to assess their local water risk and Bank of America Merrill Lynch has used the tool to inform investors about water risks and opportunities.
“Recent history is littered with companies that failed to anticipate emerging threats. Water scarcity is one such threat. Thankfully, forward-thinking business leaders are starting to get it. They understand that water risk is one of the top issues that they face,” said Andrew Steer, President, World Resources Institute.
The issue of water security is rising to the top of the sustainability agendas of several major brands. Last year, PepsiCo received the Stockholm Industry Water Award for its efforts to conserve nearly 16 billion liters of water in 2011; and last year Unilever partnered with Facebook and PSI to launch Waterworks, a non-profit program that engages Facebook users to help provide safe clean drinking water to communities in need around the world.