Online Tool Helps Track Water Usage, Risk

Sept. 1, 2011
It is said that you can’t manage what you don’t measure. An online tool hosted by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development ...

by James Lauglin, Managing Editor

It is said that you can’t manage what you don’t measure. An online tool hosted by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development can help companies both measure and monitor water usage and the risks associated with water on both a country and watershed basis.

The Global Water Tool, developed by the consulting firm CH2M Hill in 2007, has been used by over 300 companies around the world to report their water use. It can help companies account for water use within their operations, calculate their water metrics and identify areas of high water risk through external mapping.

New customized versions of the software for the oil and gas industry and power utilities were released in August.

While an overall water reduction goal is simple, the ability to identify the sites with the highest water risks can help companies decide where to best invest to generate the biggest impact. The tool allows companies to focus on the sites that need water management plans and on the suppliers that need support in better managing their water.

Companies are increasingly expected to report their sustainability performance and commitments. To help with that process, the Global Water Tool generates reports and visuals on key water data for communication with internal and external stakeholders on water issues.

Users fill out an input sheet that contains the company’s site location (latitude and longitude) and water use information. After entering the company’s water use figures, the sheet automatically provides outputs, including GRI water indicators, Bloomberg, CDP Water and Dow Jones Sustainability Index together with downloadable metrics charts combining company information with country and watershed data.

An online mapping feature lets users plot all their sites with external water datasets and download these locations in a map. The datasets provide several key metrics including renewable water resource per capita, mean annual relative water stress index and access to improved sanitation.

Supplier site locations can also be mapped, looking beyond operational water use. The tool is connected with Google Earth providing spatial viewing of site locations in relation to detailed geographic information.

The tool is updated frequently – the most recent addition being Conservation International’s Biodiversity hotspots data. The update helps companies identify how many and which of its sites are in a biodiversity hotspot.

The new oil and gas module will allow companies to map their water use and assess risks for their overall global portfolio of sites considering each part of the oil and gas value chain.

Users can consider factors such as what percentage of a company’s production volume is in water-scarce areas, how many refineries are in water-scarce areas and at greatest risks, as well as how many sites are in countries that lack access to improved water sanitation.

The power utility tool helps power companies customize data input and metric output for the four main types of power production as well as create sector-relevant intensity metrics.

The various Global Water Tools are free and hosted at under the group’s Sector Projects/Water.

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