Issues

Summary

An excerpt from Green to Gold (pages 42-44):

"Water is the essence of life. It’s also a critical input to agriculture and many industrial processes. Companies around the world now face real limits on access to water. A rising population and growing economies are putting substantial stress on resources in drier regions. Even where water is relatively plentiful, water pollution is increasingly a concern. For business, these multiple, complementary factors create both water quality and water quantity challenges...The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment estimates that as many as two billion people live with water scarcity...The problem boils down to simple supply and demand. The Earth is a closed system, so freshwater supply is basically fixed. But rising populations and an increase in irrigated crops continue to drive up water demand."

The Science

Unlike more controversial issues like climate change and biodiversity loss, water shortages or quality problems are hard to debate -- when the well runs dry or people get very sick, the problem is obvious. But also unlike these other big issues, water concerns are local and regional issues; some parts of the world are inherently drier. For some resources on the nature of the problem, we suggest the following sites:

Business response and resources

The industries that rely directly on water, most specifically agriculture, are all too aware of the threat to their business. Most of the world's largest food firms have initiatives in the realm of "sustainable agriculture," which have water as central elements. Water use concerns also plague businesses such as Coca-Cola which faces pressure about water us in its facilities in India. A few examples:

Industry organizations have banded together in a number of cases to focus on water issues. For example: