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What We Don’t Know About Water Can Hurt Us

This story is part of the “Aqueduct Sneak Peek” series. Aqueduct Sneak Peek provides an early look at the Aqueduct team’s updated global water risk maps, which will be released in January 2013.

The days leading up to Hurricane Sandy’s landfall were a testament to the power of global data systems in helping to understand and manage risks that natural phenomena can create. A vast, worldwide network of weather monitoring stations and sophisticated remote sensing allowed meteorologists to track and predict Sandy’s progress—and give ample warning to those of us in the hurricane’s path.

The map below is one way to visualize the global data network that makes such analysis possible. It shows Integrated Surface Database (ISD) stations, a widely distributed network of weather stations that all report regularly to a centralized hub.

Collaboration Trumps Competition for Developers of Water Risk and Stewardship Tools

This post is part of a series on World Water Week, an annual event designed to draw attention to and discuss global water issues. Read more posts in this series.

This piece was co-authored by Anne-Leonore Boffi, Program Officer with the WBCSD, and Ruth Mathews, Executive Director of the Water Footprint Network.

The unsustainable use of water and the risks it creates is on the minds of many of the thousands of water experts from the corporate, NGO, and government worlds who convened in Stockholm this week for World Water Week. As companies increasingly view water as not just an environmental issue, but a complex driver of very real risks to their businesses, the appetite for better information on how to manage these risks and become good water stewards has grown substantially. In fact, many organizations have put tremendous effort into developing tools and methodologies and compiling the best publicly available water information so that companies can manage their water use in sustainable, efficient, and equitable ways.

This week in Stockholm, teams from the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), World Resources Institute (WRI), and Water Footprint Network (WFN) convened a seminar called “Towards Sustainability: Harmonising Water Tools for Better Water Governance”. The event focused on providing an overview of each tool and highlighting areas requiring better harmonization and coordination efforts to help drive companies towards better management and stewardship of water resources. The seminar also included Ceres, DEG (a German development finance institution), World Wildlife Fund (WWF), and the UN CEO Water Mandate. The goal of the seminar was to explain how our organizations are striving to provide companies with a clear, easy-to- understand, and compatible set of water management tools—not a variety of competing efforts, but rather an organized and coordinated front.

Tools to Improve Water Quality

This post is part of a series on World Water Week, an annual event designed to draw attention to and discuss global water issues. Read more posts in this series.

Agricultural production often comes at the expense of water quality. As my colleague, Mindy Selman, noted in a recent blog post, “Agriculture is the leading source of nutrient pollution in waterways—a situation that’s expected to worsen as the global population increases and the demand for food grows.”

But food security shouldn’t come at the expense of water quality—and in fact, it doesn’t have to. This is a topic I’m discussing at a World Water Week side event, “Securing Water Quality While Providing Food Security: The Nutrient Question.” Through the use of effective tools and strategies, we have the power to uphold water quality while still feeding a population that’s expected to reach 9 billion by 2050.

Water Management Requires Global Perspective, Local Solutions

This post is part of a series on World Water Week, an annual event designed to draw attention to and discuss global water issues. Read more posts in this series.

This piece was co-authored by Stuart Orr, Freshwater Manager, WWF. It also appears on the WWF Freshwater Programme blog.

There is no shortage of troubling statistics to prove that water management is a global challenge. About 1.2 billion people currently face water scarcity, and a population expected to grow to 9 billion by 2050 will put increased strain on already pressured water supplies worldwide.

But while the water challenge is truly global, it also demands solutions that are tailored to local conditions. Availability, use, and quality of water vary dramatically from place to place.

AU Optronics Uses Aqueduct Maps to Assess Water Risk

This post is part of a series on World Water Week, an annual event designed to draw attention to and discuss global water issues. Read more posts in this series.

This piece was co-authored by Keith Liao, Senior Engineer with the AU Optronics Corporate Sustainability and Environment Department

Companies are increasingly feeling the financial impacts of water risks like shortages and pollution. Ceres’ most recent report, Clearing the Waters, highlights the fact that companies are falling short on identifying key areas where their operations are exposed to physical water risks. Mitigating these threats, then, requires doing more to assess, disclose, and address them.

In an effort to learn more about how companies can better understand and manage water risks, the World Resources Institute’s Aqueduct program recently partnered with AU Optronics (AUO) to assess water risks faced by the company’s fabrication plants around the world. Headquartered in Hsinchu, Taiwan, AUO is a leading manufacturer of electronic screens, otherwise known as thin-film transistor liquid crystal displays (TFT-LCDs). AUO makes up 17 percent of the world’s market share of TFT-LCDs and generated $12.5 billion in annual sales revenue in 2011.

How Food Production Impacts Water Quality

This post is part of a series on World Water Week, an annual event designed to draw attention to and discuss global water issues. Read more posts in this series.

Our water systems are currently being threatened by the crops we grow and food we produce. In many countries, agriculture is the leading source of nutrient pollution in waterways—a situation that’s expected to worsen as the global population increases and the demand for food grows.

So it’s timely that next week’s World Water Week, an annual conference organized by the Stockholm International Water Institute, is focusing on water and food security.

WRI’s water quality team will be in Stockholm next week to discuss this very topic at a side event entitled, “Securing Water Quality While Providing Food Security: The Nutrient Question,” an event co-organized by Water Environment Federation and Environmental Defense Fund. This session, which takes place on August 29th, will build on the work WRI’s water quality team has done with its partner, Dr. Bob Diaz at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, to evaluate the scale and scope of global nutrient-related water quality challenges, including how these issues are driven by agriculture.

A Message from WRI's New President, Andrew Steer

Today is my first day as President of the World Resources Institute. I’m delighted to be part of this extraordinary organization that seeks enduring solutions to protect the Earth and improve people's lives.

We live in precarious times. The world has achieved unprecedented economic progress, but by living well beyond its means in terms of natural resources and ecosystems. Never has it been more important to understand the links between resources – water, soil, atmosphere, climate, biodiversity, energy, minerals – and human activity. And never has it been more imperative that economic decisions fully reflect the true value of these resources. It is only by doing so that we will succeed in eliminating poverty and enhancing lives and livelihoods permanently.

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4 Ways Water Is Connected to India's Blackouts

Early last week, the strained electrical power infrastructure in northern and eastern India was pushed to its breaking point. Two days of power failures impacted a staggering 670 million people (or, put another way, more than the combined populations of the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Central America, and Brazil!) , leaving them in the dark and without air conditioning during a period of sweltering heat. India is now putting increased scrutiny on its power grid, with an independent audit already in the works. However, last week’s blackouts were created as much by pipes and pumps as they were by power plants and transmission lines. In many ways, the country’s power problems are symptoms of a growing water crisis.

U.S. Drought Demonstrates Complexity, Severity of Water Risk

This post is part of WRI's "Extreme Weather Watch" series, which explores the link between climate change and extreme events. Read our other posts in this series.

As much of the United States continues to suffer through what the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has called the country’s most extensive drought in more than 50 years, there is growing concern over how broad and severe the impacts may be. Events like this drought—which are projected to become increasingly common should climate change continue unabated—provide a sharp reminder of how heavily communities and global economies rely on water.

They also teach another lesson: Natural resource challenges like water scarcity cannot simply be viewed as environmental issues. They are real, material drivers of risk that governments, businesses, and investors must carefully consider in the context of the global economy.

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