Blog Post

Current State of Water Stewardship Practices: Top 5 Questions Answered

Underwater photo

Water scarcity. Water stress. Water resilience. Climate crisis. Floods. Droughts. Fires. Water-related issues are headlined daily, and major reports back this up.

  • The CDP Global Water Report (2020) informs us that, when it comes to water security, “The cost of inaction is five times the cost of action.”
  • CDP and Planet Tracker’s High and Dry: How Water Issues Are Stranding Assets, May 2022 report recognizes that “Water risk is already stranding assets across major sectors of the global economy.”
  • CEO Water Mandate a UN Global Compact initiative, highlights that “According to the World Economic Forum, water crises have been among the top five global risks in each of the last seven years.” Along with others, this industry-driven organization is working toward building a water resilient future built partly on greater corporate water stewardship practices.

For our part, SCS has partnered with The Water Council to create new programs that will help to usher in this new era of water stewardship. Most recently, SCS hosted the “Current State of Water Stewardship” webinar with our guests Apple Inc., Blue Triton Brands, and The Water Council to learn how they are working toward meeting water stewardship goals. This valuable conversation brought to light numerous questions that companies face as they begin to address water stewardship as a valuable ESG goal. Below are a few of the insights provided by our esteemed webinar guests:


1. What do the early stages of a water stewardship journey look like?

Every company’s water stewardship journey is different, and the process can be tailored to fit organizations of any size and industry. Most initial evaluations are approached from either an enterprise-wide or individual site perspective. An enterprise-level evaluation begins with understanding a company’s water use, impacts, and risks, as well as acquiring required data and information to document baseline conditions. An identification of the watersheds that the enterprise affects is also included. The site-focused approach is similar, but information is obtained for a strategic facility, then often used as a pilot for other sites.

2. What resources are available to begin mapping and assessing water use and risk?

Multiple, reliable resources are available to aid in understanding water use and risk. At the site level, water consumption can be quantified through municipal charges for use and treatment. Water quality data is also available through municipal sources. Additional data may be obtained through on-site metering. Mapping tools such as World Wildlife Federation (WWF) Water Risk Filter and World Resources Institute (WRI) Aqueduct help to identify and evaluate risk. Water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) can be assessed with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) WASH self-assessment tool for business. Ecolab has developed publicly available tools such as Smart Water Navigator and Water Risk Monetizer. Information on watersheds is available through World Wildlife Fund (WWF) HydroSHEDS and Stroud Water Resources Center’s Model My Watershed.

3. How are watershed-based actions developed and achieved?

Watershed-based projects are created through extensive partnership development, planning, implementation, and monitoring. An excellent use case discussed during our webinar was Apple’s use of resources for an aquifer restoration and storage project, which included agreements with the local municipality and other heavy water users in the watershed. Our experience shows that watershed projects created with long-term partnerships provide extended lasting impacts with opportunities to share lessons learned. REPLENISH™ adds credibility to watershed-based actions such as water supply reliability, land conservation and restoration, and aquatic habitat restoration through independent, third-party quantification of water stewardship actions using the Volumetric Water Benefit Accounting method.

4. Is WAVE an alternative to a site-specific certification or is it complimentary?

Water stewardship recognition programs such as WAVE and REPLENISH can be used individually or combined with site-specific frameworks as tools to address multiple water stewardship actions. Each type of program focuses on a different water stewardship action. Under WAVE, the company is assessed for water-related risks across the enterprise. The highest water-related impacts are identified using credible water-related data, and best practices are implemented to improve water stewardship performance. SCS’ REPLENISH™ Verification enables companies to measure and demonstrate the water they are saving through reductions, and also replenishing back into the environment through activities such as wetland conservation and restoration, rainwater collection and recycling, water supply reliability, aquatic habitat restoration, water governance, and catalytic activities. One or both of these platforms can complement existing platforms such as CEO Water Mandate, Science Based Targets Initiatives (SBTi), ESG Reports, Sustainable Development Goal 6, Clean Water and Sanitation (SDG6), Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), and Global Reporting Initiatives (GRI).

5. Water is often an overlooked component in ESG. How can companies incorporate water practices into their ESG reporting?

Incorporating relevant, verified data into your ESG reporting is possible with WAVE. The methodology allows companies to strategize, prioritize, and take meaningful action on water stewardship across the enterprise. It is the only continuous improvement methodology for increasing actions and reporting on good water stewardship. WAVE concludes with independent verification to credibly demonstrate meaningful corporate water stewardship outcomes to external stakeholders and investors. The data collected and the outcomes achieved can be fully documented in any standard ESG reporting frameworks.

SCS’ Responsible Water Practices team can support you with any of your water stewardship actions. Our expertise was developed in part through our decade-long involvement with the Alliance for Water Stewardship global site-specific framework and certification program. We can provide technical advisory services including gap analysis and implementation support. Our partnership with The Water Council allows us to provide reliability with our independent third-party verification of WAVE. Contact SCS Responsible Water Practices to address your corporate commitments, site actions, and watershed-based programs.