Aqueduct Launches Global Water Risk Atlas

Aqueduct map

by | Jan 31, 2013

The World Resources Institute and companies including GE, Shell, Dow, United Technologies and DuPont have launched an online tool that maps water risks worldwide.

The Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas, developed by WRI and founding members of the Aqueduct Alliance, can help companies, investors and governments see how water stress will affect operations locally and globally, and help prioritize investments that will increase water security, according to the organizations.

The atlas is a customizable global map, based on 12 indicators of physical, regulatory and reputational risk. It allows users to evaluate how water stress, flood occurrence, access to water, drought and other issues may affect operations. The global map can be tailored specifically for nine water-intense industry sectors including oil and gas, agriculture and chemicals.

Through the atlas, users can plot locations — from facilities, to suppliers, to potential new markets or proposed power plants — and compare those locations’ potential exposure to water stress and risk. They can also review maps of individual indicators, such as seasonal variability.

WRI says companies have already used earlier versions of the Aqueduct tool to understand how their operations and supply chains may be exposed to water risk. For example, McDonald’s has asked 353 of its global suppliers’ facilities to use Aqueduct to assess their local water risk. Procter & Gamble, Owens-Corning, and AU Optronics have used Aqueduct to understand how local water supply, quality and other risk factors may affect their global facilities, and to prioritize water efficiency and other investments, according to WRI, while Bank of America Merrill Lynch used Aqueduct to inform investors about water risks and opportunities in a November 2012 research report.

The initial working prototype of the Aqueduct tool covered the Yellow River basin in northern China; last year the alliance launched an updated interactive web platform that included the Orange-Senqu, Murray-Darling and Colorado river basins.

According to Bill Baue, a senior research fellow with AccountAbility, earlier versions of Aqueduct didn’t do as well as other online tools such as those by Global Environmental Management Initiative and Ceres 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.

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