WBCSD Global Water Tool



Origin, objectives, and scope

Unlike water footprinting and LCA, which are comprehensive methodologies for assessing water use and discharge, the WBCSD Global Water Tool* is an implementation platform. Launched in 2007 and developed by WBCSD member CH2M HILL, the Global Water Tool is a free online module that aims to couple corporate water use, discharge, and facility information input with watershed and countrylevel data. It compiles such information to evaluate a strict measurement of water use in the context of local water availability (based on the Tool’s watershed and country-level databases). This process is intended to allow companies to assess and communicate their water use and risks relative to water availability in their global operations and supply chains. The WBCSD estimates that more than 300 companies worldwide have used the Tool since its launch.


Structure and outputs

The Tool has been developed to provide a number of distinct outputs that, while pertaining to related issues (i.e., corporate water use and management), are not aggregated and do not build on each other in the way water footprints and LCA do. A full use of the Global Water Tool produces the following outputs:

  • Output GRI Indicators: GRI Indicators— total water withdrawals (Indicator EN8); water recycled/reused (Indicator EN10); and total water discharge (Indicator EN21)—are calculated for each site, country, region, and total.
  • Output Country Data: Displays site water usage information and connects country water and sanitation availability for each site.
  • Output Watershed Data: Displays site water usage information and connects watershed information for each site.
  • Combined Country and Watershed Metrics: Combines site information and external country data and reports metrics for the company’s portfolio of operations through graphs. For example, the Tool produces a graph that shows the number of facilities, workers, and suppliers a company has in areas of extreme scarcity, waterstressed areas, water-rich areas, etc.
  • Visualization of Data: Displays site locations compared to local water context in form of maps and through Google Earth.

In 2006, the Dow Chemical Company used the WBCSD Global Water Tool and GEMI Water Sustainably Planner as the bases for a water-related risk assessment for all of its facilities worldwide. At the time, Dow was experiencing greater infrastructure costs and other impacts from drought in many of its facilities. However, the resources and time necessary to individually assess the situation at each of its roughly 160 facilities worldwide were prohibitive. As a result, they decided to use the available, open-source tools from WBCSD and GEMI to guide their analysis.

Dow used the WBCSD Tool’s Google-powered “global address look-up capability” to map all of these sites and overlay them with water stress information, both current and predictions for 2025. This allowed them to quickly and efficiently identify its facilities that were at greatest risk of water stress and associated problems. Using the Tool, Dow was able to complete this phase in a number of weeks.

After mapping all of its sites, Dow gathered water use data for all the sites which it determined to be at risk of water stress. As part of the data collection process, Dow sent the risk survey found in the GEMI Water Sustainably Planner to experts at each of the targeted sites. The Planner provided conceptual thinking regarding possible drivers and local issues that inform water stress and resource planning. It also generated risk factor scores for each of the following areas: Watershed, Supply Reliability, Social Context, Compliance, Efficiency, and Supply Economics. These scores were used to create risk profiles for each site that could be used to determine appropriate mitigation strategies.


Financial and personnel requirements

As a free online offering, the WBCSD Global Water Tool is much less expensive than either WFs or LCAs to implement, and requires less time as well. However, like those methods, the amount of time and money required to use the WBCSD Tool depends on the size of the company, coupled with what it is attempting to accomplish. As mentioned, the WBCSD Tool can be used for a number of applications, although for the Tool’s most common application—mapping a companies’ and its supplier’s facilities against water stress maps (i.e., hotspotting)—a company typically needs between a half-day-to-two-full-person days to assess its direct operations and more days in cases where companies have extensive supply chains. Conducting this exercise requires no special expertise; thus the only costs are those needed to cover the employee’s time (Boffi, 2010).

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