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Why is water conservation so important for business & communities?


Why is water conservation so important for business & communities?

India holds 4% of the world's water resources. Yet, in a 2019 report, NITI Aayog declared that India is suffering from the worst water crisis in its history, leaving nearly 600 million people deprived of water. It's a testament to decades of overexploitation, further exacerbated by effects of climate change. In spite of central initiatives like Jal Jeevan Mission, water availability has continued to decline on a per capita basis, from 1,816 cubic metres in 2001 to 1,367 cubic metres in 2021. Water scarcity is further entrenching social inequality and lowering mass productivity, once again drawing attention to the importance of water conservation for communities and businesses.

Tapped Out

While many water-abundant communities might be shielded from the immediate effects of water scarcity, they are not immune to the negative chain reactions that it sets off within deprived communities. For example, according to the Central Pollution Control Board, Indian cities account for 70% of the water pollution, which breeds ill-health and disease that affect urban citizens and institutions, via communities living on the margins. For the affluent and for businesses, it means higher energy and health costs, while the less fortunate get sucked into an ever deepening cycle of poverty and poor health.

Businesses are affected by water scarcity in other ways too. Many industries which are water-dependent face threats to their supply chains. Their inability to conserve water and minimize their own environmental impact can expose them to legal and regulatory challenges. And finally, in a world where sustainability has become a key investment parameter, companies which are water insecure, or those which fail to prevent the depletion or pollution of local water resources, might not get investments. Moreover, investors are unlikely to be swayed by deployment of downstream water treatment technologies, especially if it only compensates for inefficient upstream water management processes.


Every Drop Matters

Better water management can open up a vista of well-being for communities, and sustainable growth for businesses. Communities that show the best results in water management have often received education on water conservation. Such communities are also empowered to undertake water conservation projects at scale. Their awareness and initiative also drive administrators and businesses to conserve water, starting a virtuous cycle of better water management and higher standards of living.

Water conservation also presents multiple opportunities for businesses to embed themselves within communities and accelerate their own shift to sustainability by nurturing a sustainable value chain. Just like AB InBev, for whom enabling water stewardship initiatives in Telangana, or assisting North Indian farmers adopt more water efficient methods of irrigation, is as much about helping local communities grow, as it is about establishing a sustainable business model for the next 100 years and beyond.

Technological ingenuity is enabling this new phase of implementing advanced water management techniques across the ecosystem. Moisture sensors, leak detection systems, and water flow management devices are helping communities make incremental gains in water conservation. The ability to scale up such technology effectively could make India a trailblazer in better water management techniques worldwide, turning the country into a case study in how better water management can improve key indicators of human development.


Changing Mindset

Water conservation efforts can only achieve scale through a combination of education, timely policy interventions, investments, and grassroots initiatives. Policymakers and leaders play a role in elevating the agenda of better water management to the highest echelons of government and business. Now it's time for all stakeholders to come together on a common platform to devise lasting solutions to the water crisis and ensure availability of clean water for generations to come.