By Suzi Warren, US Water Alliance

April 27, 2017

Achieving a One Water future would not be possible without direct business involvement. Likewise, long-term economic prosperity depends on a secure and sustainable water future. It is imperative for businesses to adopt One Water practices both within their operations as well as in their engagement in the broader communities and watersheds in which they do business. Historically, stewardship efforts have focused on how water affects direct business operations. Increasingly, forward-looking businesses are taking a more comprehensive approach to water sustainability—thinking and acting across their supply changes and within the watersheds in which they operate and source.

One key strategy businesses have adopted is fully integrating water stewardship into their company strategy. Businesses can set water stewardship as a priority by comprehensively integrating water into company-wide risk assessments, strategic plans and sustainability goals. Coca-Cola is leading the way by committing to restore the amount of water used in its finished products back to the watershed. Through partnering with the US Forest Service and the Nature Conservancy, Coca-Cola is improving access to safe water and sanitation while raising awareness about water issues.

Another tactic businesses have taken is deploying water efficiency, stormwater management and water reuse at industrial facilities. By embracing the circular economy, businesses are treating all water as a resource to be mined for various purposes in the manufacturing process. For example, Dow Chemical has responded to local drought conditions at their Texas manufacturing complex by finding innovative solutions to water management.  Dow collaborated with the City of Lake Jackson to divert their treated wastewater to Dow’s raw freshwater canal, rather than discharging it to the river.  The water is then used within Dow’s facilities.

A growing cadre of companies recognize that their best bet for securing their own water needs is to be active partners in protecting and restoring the watersheds in which their businesses depend. Change the Course is an initiative that engages the public, corporations and the conservation community in restoring water for people and nature.  For every personal pledge to conserve, Change the Course restores 1,000 gallons to depleted ecosystems, funded by corporations interested in balancing their water footprint.

Businesses have a great opportunity to truly impact water quality and quantity concerns around the country. By prioritizing healthy watersheds and waterways and building water stewardship into business models, companies can reduce costs, manage long-term water-related risks, improve resiliency and competitiveness, and enhance their brand and reputation.

Read the full One Water Roadmap here.