The facts about water these days are sobering. Nearly two billion people lack access to clean water for drinking or sanitation. Many of the rivers and lakes that sustain us are polluted or running dry. Freshwater species are in serious decline or are disappearing altogether. And current demand for water from cities, agriculture and industry is already exceeding nature’s ability to supply adequate water in many regions, yet is projected to increase significantly in coming years.
For humanity to continue to collectively prosper, we must dramatically improve our stewardship of the world’s freshwater resources. The time has come to achieve a balance between meeting our needs today while preserving nature’s ability to provide water over the long term. Efforts to address this challenging global issue are undermined by the fact that currently there are no common water stewardship standards.
AWS: A new approach to water management
Formed in 2008, the Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS) is working with engaged stakeholders to develop a voluntary water stewardship program and a permanent organization to house this initiative. The program, based on a rigorous yet realistic International Water Stewardship Standard, will define actions that businesses and water users worldwide can and should take to improve the social, environmental and financial sustainability of water use. The goal is to create a program that recognizes and rewards water users and managers who take significant steps to minimize their water use and impacts. (View the draft standards.)
Combining science, the latest thinking on water stewardship, risk management, along with regional engagement and pilot testing, AWS will develop a final standard by July 2013 that will:
- Consist of regional initiatives, eventually to include Africa, Asia Pacific, Central Asia, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, North America, Northern Asia, and South Asia.
- Be created by a Global Roundtable and shaped by input from engaged stakeholders that represent civil society, public sector agencies, businesses of all sorts, water service providers and regions from around the world.
- Be applicable to large water users, such as manufacturers, mining operations, agriculture and energy production as well as water utilities.
- Be based on critical aspects of water stewardship, such as managing water quality, the flow of rivers, and the health of habitats -- like forests and grasslands -- that need water and that help improve water quality in lakes, rivers and aquifers
- Include a system to verify conformity with the standards.
- Include communication and branding materials to add value for businesses that meet the standard.
- Be overseen by a governing body that includes a variety of stakeholders necessary to ensure the integrity, credibility and effectiveness of the program.
Learn about the progress to date and those that are supporting and leading the AWS - like Lisa Downes in North America and Ricardo Monsivais in Latin America and the Caribbean. Visit the Alliance for Water Stewardship website here.