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Conflicting Reporting Systems May Hinder Companies' Water Risk Strategies

Water risks such as floods, scarcity and pollution are increasingly chipping into corporate bottom lines. The financial sector is taking notice--and taking action.

Calvert Investments asked Hanes Brands to evaluate its losses from cotton-supply shortages due to the 2011 US drought, determining that the company lost $5.2 billion.

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Water Risk on the Rise

This article first appeared in Project Syndicate

Water is never far from the news these days. This summer, northern India experienced one of its heaviest monsoon seasons in 80 years, leaving more than 800 people dead and forcing another 100,000 from their homes. Meanwhile, Central Europe faced its worst flooding in decades after heavy rains swelled major rivers like the Elbe and the Danube. In the United States, nearly half the country continues to suffer from drought, while heavy rainfall has broken records in the Northeast, devastated crops in the South, and now is inundating Colorado.

Businesses are starting to wake up to the mounting risks that water – whether in overabundance or scarcity – can pose to their operations and bottom line. At the World Economic Forum in Davos this year, experts named water risk as one of the top four risks facing business in the twenty-first century. Similarly, 53% of companies surveyed by the Carbon Disclosure Project reported that water risks are already taking a toll, owing to property damage, higher prices, poor water quality, business interruptions, and supply-chain disruptions.

The costs are mounting. Deutsche Bank Securities estimates that the recent US drought, which affected nearly two-thirds of the country’s lower 48 states, will reduce GDP growth by approximately one percentage point. Climate change, population growth, and other factors are driving up the risks. Twenty percent of global GDP already is produced in water-scarce areas. According to the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), in the absence of more sustainable water management, the share could rise to 45% by 2050, placing a significant portion of global economic output at risk.

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Indonesia Burning: Forest Fires Flare To Alarming Levels

Fires were ablaze once more on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, reaching levels almost as high as those of June 2013, when neighboring Singapore and Malaysia were smothered by record-breaking smog and haze. NASA satellites registered a total of 734 high-confidence fire alerts in Sumatra’s provinces for the period August 22-27. Fire alert numbers declined significantly August 28-29.

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Managing the Earth from Space: Satellite and Sensing Technology in Water Management

WRI experts Betsy Otto, Charles Iceland, Tien Shiao, and Paul Reig will attend World Water Week in Stockholm next week. Among other activities, they’ll co-host a session on using satellite data to map global water risks. Here, Andrew Maddocks explores the role that satellite data can play in improving water management. Learn more about WRI’s World Water Week Activities.

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New Mapping Technology: Nova Scotia’s Powerful Ally in Protecting Valuable Forests

The government of Nova Scotia announced an ambitious plan earlier this month to protect 245,000 hectares of forest and park land, establishing the Canadian province as a conservation leader in one of the world’s most heavily forested nations. Roughly 14 percent of all land in Nova Scotia will now be legally protected from development, making it the province with the second-highest percentage of land devoted to protected areas in Canada, after British Columbia.

This news is significant for conservationists and for the vast number of Canadians who depend on these forests for clean air, water, and a bounty of other resources. It also illustrates a powerful truth: precise, science-based maps are an essential component of good forest management and planning.

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