Water availability and corporate water use continue to be an important issue facing our profession. I recently had the terrific experience of chairing the Water Sustainability program at the Auditing Roundtable’s national fall meeting in Philadelphia.
It was clear from discussions with water professionals from companies such as the Coca-Cola Company and LimnoTech that water issues have been, and are, top of mind for many in the environmental profession and becoming a higher priority.
And the issues are typically complex, requiring collaboration from multiple stakeholders.
Indeed, the opening keynote by Carol Collier, executive director of the Delaware River Basin Commission, illustrated the complexity of water management issues for a watershed that serves four states, 838 municipalities and 28 different congressional districts. Here are a few of the basic tenets of water management she shared:
- Water is one interconnected system. Surface water and groundwater supply sources are managed in an integrated system along with storm water and wastewater.
- Water does not recognize political boundaries. It resides in watersheds and needs to be managed on a watershed basis.
- Activity on land impacts adjacent surface water and underlying groundwater. Effective water management requires a coordinated land management effort.
Emerging opportunities, including those for industry and utilities also can affect the water system. For the Delaware River basin, current plans for extracting natural gas from the underlying Marcellus Shale are expected to use substantial water volumes for hydrofracking, with estimates ranging from 3-5 million gallons per well. And as the hydrofracking fluids return to the surface, flowback water likely will contain very high levels of total dissolved solids and may be affected by additives.
With population increases and climate change expected to put additional stress on our water supplies, water sustainability is certainly an issue I’m sure we’ll continue to discuss.
In the meantime, I’d love to hear about some of the work you’re doing to address water at your company. How would you rate the complexity of water issues for your company? Is water management a priority now or reaching priority level? What are the water issues or water opportunities in your supply chain?