Water scarcity affects more than 40 percent of people around the world, an alarming figure that is projected to increase with the rise of global temperatures as a consequence of climate change. Although 2.1 billion people have gained access to improved water sanitation since 1990, dwindling supplies of safe drinking water is a major problem impacting every continent.
In 2011, 41 countries experienced water stress; ten of them are close to depleting their supply of renewable freshwater and must now rely on non-conventional sources. Increasing drought and desertification is already exacerbating these trends. By 2050, it is projected that at least one in four people are likely to be affected by recurring water shortages.
This August, the World Resources Institute released updated data showing that even in under their best scenario, at least 49 countries will likely experience high to extremely high levels of water stress by 2020. In their earlier 2013 report, Sri Lanka was ranked among countries having high water stress. Protecting and restoring water-related ecosystems such as forests, mountains, wetlands and rivers is essential if we are to mitigate water scarcity.
Sri Lankan groundwater resources are widely used for domestic, commercial and industrial purposes, small scale irrigation, water supply schemes and other purposes. About 80 percent of the rural domestic water supply needs are met from groundwater by means of dug wells and tube wells. (Source: Groundwater Resources of Sri Lanka, C. R. Panabokke, A.P.G.R.L. Perera)
However, recent events have brought to light increasing misuse of this precious resource by the industrial sector. The Environmental Protection License (EPL) granted to the global giant Coca-Cola’s factory was suspended due to contamination of the Kelani River from oil leakage. It was also found that the water in the Ambatale reservoir which supplies water to households in Colombo and the suburbs had been contaminated with oil, leading to drinking water supply disruption and an almost total shutdown of water supply to the greater Colombo area. Just over 2 years ago, a prominent glove manufacturing factory in the Rathupaswala area was forced to shut down due to thousands of locals protesting against the ground water contamination.
The Corporate Water Footprint
The concept of the water footprint was borne out of the need to conserve water. It has garnered international support from major companies, policymakers, NGOs and scientists as an important step toward solving the world’s ever increasing water problems.
Professor Arjen Y. Hoekstra, the creator of the water footprint concept says:
“The interest in the water footprint is rooted in the recognition that the human impact on freshwater systems can ultimately be linked to human consumption, and that issues like water shortages and pollution can be better understood and addressed by considering production and supply chains as a whole..." “Water problems are often closely tied to the structure of the global economy”, he adds. “Not only governments, but also consumers, businesses and civil society communities can play a role in achieving a better management of water resources.”
Leading the charge on addressing corporate water impacts, Eswaran Brother’s Exports cemented their position as the country’s leader in sustainable tea products by commissioning the country’s first Organizational and Product Water Footprints. Carried out according to the guidelines of the International Water Footprint Network through its partner in Sri Lanka, The Carbon Consulting Company, the water footprints bring a whole new dimension towards building sustainable corporates and brands.
The Carbon Consulting Company has partnered with several leading corporates in managing their water impacts. Linea Aqua is a joint venture between Speedo International (UK), Brandot International (US) & MAS Holdings. With a vision to be the most compelling swimwear supplier in the world, Linea Aqua has grown into the force behind some of the best names in the swimwear business. Commencing by measuring its Organizational Water Footprint, the company was certified as the FIRST WaterConscious® Company by CCC due to its ongoing commitment to measure, manage and mitigate its water intensity.