Leading the battle for sustainable water management: Actions for industries

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Water Crisis seek solution from decision makers which is eventually catered by a group of professionals, these experts provide external assurance or scientific knowledge support towards sustainable water management.

 

hile securing water, every sector stands in confrontation with the other. The confrontations are generated from the issues related to ownership and allocation of water and also from incompatible intellectual and political traditions that defend often irreconcilable opposing principles and values.

While developing water resource for use in industries, the corporates confront these traditions, values, myths, political interventions, and a great amount of opposition from scientific and environmental activists.

To overcome the issues and to maximise the benefit from the social intervention in managing water resource, the concept of water resource management evolved in the late 60s. Since water is a finite resource and a large section of the planet has turned into water stressed regions the term sustainable water management has become very relevant for every industry in every region.

Water Resource Management

Management of water in a true sense covers a spectrum of domains that starts from geography, geology, sociology, economics, and business management, including the spheres of engineering as well. As water crisis worsens, decision makers seek a solution which is eventually catered by a group of professionals, who are experts in one or more knowledge domains. These professionals are called consultants in the fields of water resource management, who provide external assurance or scientific knowledge support in the decision making process. India, while heading towards becoming a global economic superpower is facing water security challenges in all sectors where major advancement is envisaged and, for water sustainability solution, need such experts at every turning point of economic and social growth.

Challenges

Main water related problems faced by the industries are:

  1. uneven and erratic distribution of water
  2. inefficiency in water use
  3. overexploitation of resources
  4. water pollution, erratic wastewater disposal and landfills
  5. depletion of source water quality
  6. unprotected discharging areas
  7. inadequate investment in securing water

Above all, water management is sensitive to local issues and social radicalism.

Impact of Industrial usage

Industrial water demand is larger in scale than domestic supply and needs full assessment of the yield of sources, assessment of use, assessment of discharge and overall impact on the environment. The main areas where industries require consultants or external assurance are:

  1. statutory and legal requirements
  2. ensuring water security
  3. water conservation (quality and quantity)
  4. delivering water stewardship and corporate social responsibility (CSR)
  5. mitigating reputational risk
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Initiatives to take for sustainability of water resources

Each of the above categories needs to be trained manpower to deliver services that are cost effective, efficient and sustainable. The major tasks under each of the above drivers are listed below:

Statutory and legal requirements

  • Baseline study (hydrological, hydrogeological, watershed)
  • Impact mitigation plan
  • Licencing
  • Periodical reporting and disclosure

Water sourcing

  • Finding a suitable and sustainable source of water
  • Preparation of status reports
  • Water profiling

Water Sustainability

  • Planning and designing sustainable water infrastructure
  • Water audit and water loss control
  • Water footprint study
  • Water balance study
  • Benchmarking
  • Basin level hydrological study for sustainability

Water conservation

  • Effluent and wastewater treatment
  • Management of wastewater and solid waste
  • Water recycling and reuse
  • Rainwater harvesting and artificial recharge

Delivering water stewardship and CSR

  • Stakeholders’ engagement in water management
  • Socioeconomic study for site and beneficiary selection
  • Training and capacity building
  • Ecological development
  • Water literacy and awareness

Mitigating reputational risk

  • Preparation of reports and propaganda materials
  • Public relation

Reporting to global organisations

  • Preparing reports and disclosure notes for organisations like GRI reporting, Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI) Reporting, CDP (formerly Carbon Disclosure Project)

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Services need to delivered

Delivering water related services may start even before an industry is physically commissioned. A company can engage consultants for:

  1. conducting the geophysical and geological survey and preparing the hydrogeological report to secure a permit for installing tube wells
  2. the hydrological study, site selection and designing surface water development strategy
  3. designing a rainwater harvesting system for water conservation
  4. for defending their case in the public hearing

This enables them to successfully meet the regulatory requirements, secure water availability and overcome reputational risk.

After commissioning and starting production an industry requires to conduct a water audit or water footprint study to assess water sustainability and to make water use more productive and economic. Water professional can suggest more avenues of water conservation and can explore hidden resources that are more economical to exploit. The expert can also deliver services to help an industry mitigating its reputational risks and help to formulate CSR policies.

Industries need to be vigilant on the water resource they depend upon. It is more important in a water stressed area where the sustainability of a business is under risk. In addition to statutory compliance and disclosure, a systematic assessment of water resource, periodical water use audit, monitoring and estimation of source water will help the industry in prior planning of their water management activities and water stewardship initiatives.

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