WRC Dialogue on Water Footprint, 28 June 2013
Keynote address: International Policy Specialist Ms Ruth Mathews, Water Footprint Network (WFN), Netherlands.
Venue: Casa Toscana, Pretoria
The water risks facing private business are growing as the resource becomes increasingly stressed worldwide. Risks include changing water rights, water quality regulations, growing community interest and public scrutiny of water-related activities. Internal measures to manage water risks alone (i.e., efforts to reduce water footprints within a company’s direct operation and supply chain) cannot eliminate exposure to water risk and uncertainty about water supply. To debate this issue and exchange ideas, the WRC has invited the Executive Director and International Policy Specialist, Ruth Mathews from the Water Footprint Network (WFN), Netherlands.
In response to these increasing risks, some businesses have begun to take more proactive measures to manage their water risks. Water accounting tools, and in particular, water footprints are a good starting point to understand water use per unit product or economic output, and the distribution of water consumption across the value chain of a sector. The numbers alone however do not help in the quantification of risk as they are not able to reflect the local context of the watershed of interest, and thus, water accounting metrics alone are not sufficient in developing a robust water strategy for a company.
The WRC has been at the forefront of promoting the application of water management tools in South Africa, by facilitating different sectors to adopt tools. Most recently WRC has focused on working with the on the applicability of water footprints as a water management tool for the industrial sector.
To this end, WRC commissioned a study to review the applicability of water footprint tools for the industrial sector in South Africa. This project, which was implemented over a period of two years, undertook several water footprint assessment case studies, reviewed the application of some key concepts and the institutional landscape for water footprint implementation.
The objective of this water footprint dialogue is to therefore broaden the discourse and take the outcomes of the research to a broader constituency. Specific objectives of the dialogue include the following:
Build understanding on the current global discourse on the application of water footprint tools
The application water footprint by some key sectors in South Africa and the lessons that can be drawn from the current understanding;
The implications of water footprint assessment as a water management tool.
To share with the South African water sector the global trends and lessons on water footprint application and the policy and regulatory challenges and opportunities for the various stakeholders.
South African Water Research Commission