The AWS Standard: Water stewardship, certified

Posted by The San Diego Union-Tribune

As the importance of clean, plentiful water becomes ever clearer in California — and around the world — a new water-stewardship standard is coming to the forefront as a way to recognize and encourage responsible corporate citizenship. Alliance for Water Stewardship certification is the new “gold standard” for responsible water stewardship. In 2014, this global nongovernmental organization established rigorous standards aimed at ensuring long-term, sustainable water use. Three facilities where Arrowhead® Brand 100% Mountain Spring Water is produced were among the first in the world to earn AWS certification, with the most recent earning AWS certification in June. Only nine sites in the world have achieved AWS certification — and three of them are Arrowhead brand facilities (in Ontario, Sacramento and Livermore).

“We work with the private sector, nonprofits, civil society [and] other groups to really work together to identify ways to be better water stewards,” said Matt Howard, director for AWS North America. “AWS’s primary way of accomplishing that is through the use of its voluntary standard, the International Water Stewardship Standard.”

The Arrowhead brand has focused on maintaining a clean, safe and sustainable water supply since 1894. Three of the five California facilities that produce the Arrowhead brand — in Ontario, Sacramento and Livermore — have recently met the AWS Standard, with the remainder of the California facilities currently in the process of certification.

“We’ve practiced water stewardship for many, many years,” said Larry Lawrence, natural resource manager for the Arrowhead brand, speaking from its historic Los Angeles factory, which opened in 1917. “But really it was this last drought cycle [2014-2017] … in California that focused us on doing something over and above what the requirements of the region are.”

The AWS Standard defines good water stewardship as water use that is socially equitable, environmentally sustainable and economically beneficial. It lays out a six-step approach to meeting its high standards: commit; gather and understand; plan; implement; evaluate; communicate; and disclose.

During an AWS audit, a facility is assessed based on 30 criteria. To earn AWS certification, facilities are expected to, among other things: develop a holistic water conservation policy, implement water-saving procedures and notify local stakeholders about their water conservation efforts.

The Arrowhead brand’s Ontario facility is an example of how positive changes can be made facility-wide to meet the AWS standard. The Ontario facility was operating at close to AWS standards before its certification audit in April, Lawrence explained. In 2015 the Ontario bottling facility had initiated xeriscape landscaping, conserving around 5 million gallons of water annually by replacing grass with low-water-use facilities. It was already using wastewater from bottling lines in its cooling towers. Both are examples of advanced water stewardship practices.

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