With the Bureau of Reclamation warning that the Colorado River could be in an official shortage as soon as 2020, a new report released today by Business for Water Stewardship offers hope that businesses can cut water use while growing the economy. The report, Corporate Contributions to Water Stewardship in Colorado and Arizona, found that just under half of Colorado and Arizona’s leading companies have voluntary water use targets. With the Commercial, Industrial and Institutional (CII) sector accounting for more than a quarter of water use in those states, policies and incentives to promote corporate water stewardship could result in significant savings.
“We can’t make it rain, but we can make the most of every drop of water, and that is precisely what the Southwest’s leading companies are working to do,” said Todd Reeve, Director of Business for Water Stewardship. “The fact that Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Hilton, Intel, MillerCoors, and so many other businesses are working voluntarily to reduce water use and restore rivers is a great sign. We need to accelerate that progress to ensure a water secure and prosperous future.”
The research, conducted by Antea Group, looked at water use by 67 Arizona and Colorado companies in the food and beverage, hospitality, energy, and technology industries. Limited data makes it difficult to track progress, but available information shows that CII water use is rising, although it is still below 2004 levels in Arizona, and growing more slowly than the economy.
“What gets measured gets managed,” said Nick Martin of Antea Group. “The timing is right and the appetite to pursue meaningful advancements in corporate water stewardship is at an all-time high. The missing piece is readily available data and information for companies, utilities and policymakers to make informed and confident decisions.”
The report highlights three key needs to accelerate corporate water stewardship: better data about CII water use, more sharing of best practices, and a more supportive policy and business environment that incentivizes water savings, recycling, and restoration.
Even absent policy and market incentives, 44% of Arizona companies surveyed and 49% of those in Colorado have set water use targets, with annual water savings ranging from 2-10%. Many companies are also using recycling, community engagement, technology like remote monitoring, and operational and landscape changes to save water. The report includes case studies from household name companies like Hilton, Sprint, IBM, Intel, GoDaddy, Safeway and MillerCoors.
“To stay competitive, companies need to be looking decades into the future,” said Jon Radtke, Water Sustainability Program Director at Coca-Cola North America. “Any business in the Southwest that’s looking that far out is going to see water risk, and understand that it’s in their interest–and the interest of employees and customers–to do their part to conserve. That’s why Coke is working to boost global water efficiency by 25% while returning 100% of the water we use to communities and nature.”
“At Hilton, we’re committed to reducing our water use intensity by 50 percent by 2030 through our Travel with Purpose initiative. In order to accomplish our water stewardship goals, every property in our portfolio is required to have at least one water restoration, replenishment or conservation effort active in their communities,” said Maxime Verstraete, vice president of corporate responsibility, Hilton. “From replacing leaky pipes to water efficient landscaping, we know that small changes can add up to a big impact when magnified across our more than 5,500 hotels around the world.”
Seven of the companies surveyed support restoration projects designed to increase flows in rivers and streams, restore wetlands and replenish groundwater to improve water security for people, fish and wildlife. In Arizona, corporate funding has helped advance dozens of irrigation modernization projects that now deliver water more reliably to farms while also bolstering flows to rivers and streams. In Colorado, corporate support has helped implement water sharing agreements and partnerships that keep rivers like the Poudre, Gunnison, Yampa, and Rio Grande flowing during times of stress.
A summary and the full report are both available for download at http://businessforwater.org/resources#policy-publications.
As originally published for Business for Water Stewardship by Molly Mugglestone on November 20, 2018