Water Tools from GEMI, Ceres, Aqueduct Each Fill a Different Niche

by | Mar 26, 2012

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The three latest tools for identifying and assessing water-related risks offer a variety of pros and cons, according to Bill Baue, a senior research fellow with AccountAbility, writing for the Guardian.

The number of such tools has doubled from three to six over the past six months, according to the World Business Council for Sustainable Development and the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

The Global Environmental Management Initiative’s Local Water Tool, released earlier this month, is the only such tool that addresses local water management issues purely from the user’s perspective, the initiative says. This allows companies to better understand the risks and opportunities arising from water use and discharge at each of their sites, GEMI executive director Steve Hellem and director Amy Goldman said.

Along with the general LWT, GEMI also released a LWT specifically for the oil and gas industry. Both tools were developed in cooperation with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development and the oil and gas industry’s environmental association IPIECA.

Another tool, Ceres Aqua Gauge, provides guidance to help companies expand their water management beyond their own operations. It is designed to help companies improve water risk management while also helping investors to track and assess the water risk disclosure and management of companies in their portfolios.

But a drawback of both tools is that they are Excel-based, rather than using more widely accessible cloud-based platforms, Baue says.

Meanwhile, the Aqueduct Alliance is a consortium for measuring and mapping water risk, launched by the World Resources Institute with partners including GE, Goldman Sachs, Bloomberg, Dow, and Talisman. Aqueduct’s centerpiece is a water risk atlas, using donated local-level water stress data from Coca-Cola, and the alliance also offers a 14-indicator water risk framework.

The combined Aqueduct tools are designed to help companies move beyond simply measuring their water use to evaluate water scarcity, both current and future; competition for water resources; and water quality, all at the local level. The WRI says the database will enable companies, investors, governments, and others to create water risk maps with a never-before-seen level of detail and resolution.

But Baue says Aqueduct doesn’t do as well at implementing sustainability context – a principle of the Global Reporting Initiative, calling on companies to assess their proportional impacts within social and ecological limits. This method is the most robust and accurate way of measuring sustainability, Baue says.

And so far Aquaduct only covers the Yellow River, but coverage for the Orange-Senqu, Murray-Darling, and Colorado river basins will begin soon.

Picture credit: Joost J. Bakker

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