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Valuing Water: How Can Businesses Manage the Coming Scarcity?

Valuing Water: How Can Businesses Manage the Coming Scarcity?

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Special Report
: H
March 2011
http://environment.wharton.upenn.edu http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu
The Initiative for Global Environmental Leadership (IGEL) and Knowledge@Wharton have partnered to create this special report on business and theenvironment. We are most grateful to the Xerox Foundation for supportingcollaboration and funding of this edition.
Valuing Water: How Can Businesses Manage the ComingScarcity?
Water is a paradoxical commodity: It seems free and plentiful, yet its supplyis under tremendous strain. Use of fresh water has more than doubled overthe past 50 years, and many fear that we are coming close to a frighteningbreaking point, a world where chronic water shortages for farmers,businesses and people is the norm. Some experts even see internationalconflict emerging over access to dwindling supplies. Recognizing theseconcerns, companies are undertaking major programs to realign their wateruse with core business and humanitarian interests. But while objectives likebeing “water neutral” and using “footprinting” — tracking the use of waterthroughout the supply chain — are ambitious, what is being done to achievethem? Are these goals realistic, and will they have enough impact? Thisspecial report addresses these questions.
In a Water-stressed World, Corporations Conserve 1
Global water requirements will outstrip supply in the years ahead. According to one report,a third of the world’s population will live where the deficit is greater than 50% just 20 yearsfrom now. Multinational corporations are taking notice of the compelling business andhumanitarian reasons for having a proactive approach to water issues.
 Water Neutrality: A Controversial Concept That Can Spark Innovation 6
With water use a potential deal breaker to doing business in certain regions, water-intensive corporations are increasingly working to achieve “water neutrality” — theoffsetting of water use through conservation, recycling, replenishment and communityprojects. Although criticized by some, such efforts are helping companies identify andreduce water use while educating the public about water scarcity.
Thirsty Power: Confronting the Energy-water Nexus 10
Water is a great hidden cost in energy generation. The reality of water-dependent energymeans that any holistic impact analysis must take water consumption into account — andinclude impacts on water quality. Looking at water and energy together may in some casessolve two problems at once, experts say.

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