By Louis Glotfelty, Water Stewardship Intern
When talking about the protection of freshwater resources, the focus is often exclusively centered around water conservation. Don’t get me wrong, water conservation is extremely important, especially in regions such as the American Southwest, which is experiencing a historic mega-drought. However, true water stewardship goes beyond traditional water management and aims to address issues based on the situational context in which freshwater resources are located and what types of activities they source (farming vs industrial vs residential). This means water-related challenges and risks can look very different in different areas.
For example, some places may experience water risk associated with poor water quality despite having an abundance of freshwater available. This could be due to runoff from agricultural sites, oil and rubber particles entering water from roadways, or excessive winter salt application. These non-point pollution sources can contaminate surface water and groundwater, ultimately putting companies and residents at risk of poor water quality requiring more funding for stormwater infrastructure or new treatment methods.
The Great Lakes region, home to 20% of the world’s freshwater reserves, is not immune to risks associated with poor water quality. In fact, an estimated 22 million pounds of plastics enter the Great Lakes each year from consumer products and industrial waste. Additionally, increased rainfall from climate change exacerbates the issue of agricultural, industrial and residential runoff and can also lead to direct raw sewage overflows from water treatment facilities.
If this seems daunting, it doesn’t have to be. There are some small things companies in the Great Lakes region, and around the world, can do to make a big difference to protect their water resources. Here are three tips for companies looking to make a difference on water:
It only takes 1 teaspoon of salt to permanently contaminate 5 gallons of fresh water. How much winter salt does your company use? By enrolling in certification courses through organizations such as Wisconsin Salt Wise or the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, your company can learn to use salt more efficiently and reduce chloride pollution, which contaminates drinking water and destroys freshwater ecosystems. Courses are provided for individuals and organizations free of cost, and certifications are valid for multiple years.
Green infrastructure is one of the best ways to reduce your company’s ecological footprint from stormwater runoff. Bioswales and rain gardens placed adjacent to impervious surfaces such as parking lots naturally filter out pollutants such as oil, rubber particles and salt before they enter the storm sewer or surface waterways. They are also designed to reduce the risk of flooding by slowing down the flow of water, allowing it to infiltrate the soil and replenish groundwater aquifers. Furthermore, green roofs enable evapotranspiration and stormwater infiltration and offer other benefits such as habitat, aesthetic appeal and reduced energy costs by providing an additional layer of insulation.
If your company is looking to be a leader in water stewardship, then consider enrolling in The Water Council’s newest initiative: WAVE: Water Stewardship Verified. WAVE will provide your company with an enterprise-wide understanding of how water is used by your business. You’ll also learn about contextual water-related risks and how to prioritize sites to address those risks. Furthermore, the independent third-party verification from SCS Global Services proves to your stakeholders the credibility of your commitment to industry best practices. If you’re looking for more information on the WAVE certification process, check out the FAQ page.
To learn more about corporate water stewardship, peruse The Water Council’s new Corporate Water Stewardship website. If you’d like to get your company connected with The Water Council network, then consider becoming a Water Champion. Water Champions stay in-the-know on the latest water technologies and stewardship, and they help support The Water Council’s mission to drive freshwater innovation and advance water stewardship.
Water is the most valuable resource we have, and responsible water practices are critical for corporate resiliency. What is your company doing to improve its impact on water?