It seems that water is on everyone’s mind lately. The UN’s 18th annual World Water Day was celebrated on March 22nd with the motto “Clean Water for a Healthy World.” National Geographic recently published their April 2010 issue, entitled simply “Water.” Businesses, governments, nonprofit organizations and individuals are looking closely at the management of this vital resource as we realize how profoundly it affects every aspect of human society.
And what better time than now to pay attention? To quote Barbara Kingsolver in her article “Water is Life” for National Geographic, “We’ve lately raised the Earth’s average temperature by .74°C (1.3°F), a number that sounds inconsequential. But these words do not: flood, drought, hurricane, rising sea levels, bursting levees. Water is the visible face of climate and, therefore, climate change.”
The truth is that we should be paying closer attention than ever to this most precious of natural resources. Though the majority of the earth is covered with water, only 2.5% is freshwater, and less than half of the freshwater is easily accessible. Human water use has grown at an alarming rate over the past century. The United Nations estimates that two-thirds of the world’s population will live in water-stressed regions by the year 2025 due to use, growth and climate change. We need to learn, as a society and as individuals, how to use our water efficiently through better conservation, management and distribution.
Many major corporations used World Water Day this year as a springboard to launch powerful new initiatives aimed at reducing water consumption, improving water management, and providing safe access to clean water for those who need it most.
- Kraft Foods’ Crystal Light partnered with the Nature Conservancy to raise awareness about the importance of our freshwater sources, donating 100 percent of net profits from Crystal Light products sold on March 22 (up to $750,000).
- PepsiCo announced a goal to provide safe water access to three million people in developing companies by 2015. As well, they have also set a goal of providing access to safe water to one million people by the end of 2010. The company also announced that it would continue to work toward positive water balance in water-distressed areas.
- Not to be outdone, Coca-Cola announced an expansion of its global partnership with the USAID with a joint investment of $12.7 million. This investment supports new programs throughout sub-Saharan Africa with four objectives: watershed management, water supply and sanitation, hygiene promotion, and productive water use.
- Nestle Waters announced that it would continue to provide water education to children in order to raise awareness about water resource management, hydration and health, and environmental stewardship.
- Dole introduced a new packing process aimed at major reduction of water use.
- Dow, touting itself as “a global advocate for clean, drinkable water,” will continue its partnership with International Aid to provide water purification systems for 2 million people around the world, including those in earthquake-ravaged Haiti.
- Intel has vowed to take a closer look at its own water practices, provide transparency about its water use, and preserve water quality in operation areas.
These are positive steps forward from some of the largest corporate players in the world. “We are living in a time when global companies are rising up to become global citizens,” says Amir Dossal of the UN Office for Partnerships. Major companies are beginning to understand that consumers want them to act responsibly on these issues. As individuals we can take steps at home to reduce our own water consumption, but we must also continue to expect companies to provide products that have been produced and transported using the best water management, efficiency and conservation practices possible. The more that corporations understand how important these issues are to their customers, the more they will invest in the kinds of practices that will ultimately shape a positive future for our planet and for humankind.
To learn more about what you can do to manage water use and to help address the global water issues, check out these resources: