The most basic (and well-developed) sphere of corporate water assessment relates to internal management and decision-making, which encompasses issues such as operational efficiency, product eco-design, and sustainable manufacturing.
Companies often measure the amount of water they use and discharge directly at the facilities they own or operate. These measurements have been largely driven by a desire to maximize operational efficiencies. Companies are increasingly applying these same measurements to their key suppliers in order to better assess the water requirements for products and operations throughout the value chain. Eventually, such measurements can be used as the basis for operational “hotspotting,” where companies identify the components of their value chain that use and discharge the most water.
Key questions companies ask with regard to accounting for their water use/discharge for internal management purposes include:
- How much water do we use in all of our owned/operated facilities?
- How efficiently is this water use normalized to production?
- How much wastewater is discharged to the natural environment and of what quality is it when it leaves the facility? What are the major contaminants released?
- How much water do my suppliers use? How efficiently? How much wastewater do they discharge and of what quality?
- In which segments of my value chain does my company use/discharge the most water?
The following tools may be particularly helpful for companies wishing to advance operational efficiency, eco-design, and sustainable manufacturing: