Asia's water crisis

Asia’s water crisis

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by Richard Welford rwelford@csr-asia.comThree out of four countries in the Asia-Pacific region are facing a serious lack of water, and some are in danger of a crisis unless steps are taken to improve water management, a report by the Asian Development Bank and the Asia-Pacific Water Forum has argued.The Asian Water Development Outlook for 2013 is first study examining the degree of water security of every country in the region. It found that 37 out of 49 countries do not have enough water, the worst being India, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Cambodia, Kiribati, Nauru and Tuvalu.
South Asia and parts of Central and West Asia are faring the worst with rivers under immense strain. Many Pacific islands suffer from a lack of access to safe piped water and decent sanitation and are highly vulnerable to increasingly severe water disasters, according to the ADB. By contrast East Asia, which has the highest frequency of hazards in the region, is relatively better off due to higher levels of investment in disaster defences, but urban water security remains poor in many cities and towns.
Water security has become an increasing concern across Asia in recent years will inevitable impact on businesses operating in sensitive areas and with processes that are highly water dependent. There is clearly a need for businesses in the region to assess their own water impacts and also the risks that they might face as water resources come under further strains.
More frequent floods and droughts caused by climate change, pollution of rivers and lakes, urbanisation, over-extraction of ground water and expanding populations mean that many Asia-Pacific nations face serious water shortages. In addition, the demand for more power by countries like India to fuel their economic growth has resulted in a need to harness more water for hydropower dams impacting on downstream water availability.
The ADB study examined water security in countries at five different levels, including access to clean drinking water and sanitation, water availability for industry and agriculture, and water supply systems in urban areas. The ADB says that much progress has been made in terms of providing drinking water, but when we consider at the number of households that have piped water, it is much less satisfactory.
Only 35 percent of the region’s population have a secure water supply. Even worse, only 23 percent of South Asians and 21 percent of those living in the Pacific have piped water. The ADB cited China as a good example of improved water management, in which the government not only promised to double annual investment in the water sector to $608 billion by 2020, but also set performance targets for industry, irrigation and water quality.
The ADB clearly hopes that the report would jolt governments into action. There is a need to manage water security in a more comprehensive manner, for sure. But as one of the biggest consumers of water businesses has a very clear role to play as well.
A good starting point for any business is to have a good hard look at its own water footprint. The water footprint is an indicator of water use that includes both direct and indirect water use of a producer. The water footprint of a business is defined as the total volume of freshwater that is used to produce the goods and services produced by the business. Water use is measured in water volume consumed (or evaporated) and polluted per unit of time. The water footprint is a geographically explicit indicator, not only showing volumes of water use and pollution, but also the locations and local water sensitivities.
The water footprint of a business consists of two components: the direct water use by the producer (for producing and manufacturing or for supporting activities) and the indirect water use (in the supply chain). Measuring water impacts can then help to determine where water is being used, where it is being abused and also allow us to begin to calculate water used in the production of goods and provision of services.
Businesses need therefore to consider a number of initiatives that include:
Measuring the water footprint of the processes, products and services in a business and consider ways to reduce water usage.
Investing in water efficiency measures and consider changes in processes that use less water and can reuse and recycle water more effectively.
Working with other organizations to protect local water resources, including watersheds and other natural water sources.
Considering how to integrate water security projects into innovative community investment initiatives.
Raising awareness amongst stakeholders of the need for water protection and advocating for the need to better protect and manage water resources.
(Source: CSR Asia)

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