In the U.S., water scarcity often seems a non-issue when you turn on a faucet and receive plentiful, clean, and sometimes even free water. Water is fundamental to business to heat, cool, clean, and manufacture goods. More so than oil, increasingly water is a limited natural resource with supplies adversely impacted by quality, pollution, insufficiency of infrastructure, drought, and flooding. PwC’s 17th Annual Global CEO Survey reveals interesting insights into the views and perceptions of business leaders regarding water.

  1. Water crisis was identified as the #1 global business risk in terms of impact in 2015.
  2. 46% of CEOs surveyed believed that resource scarcity and climate change will transform their business in the next five years.
  3. According to the World Resource Group, the world will face a 40% global shortfall between forecast demand and available water supply by 2030; moreover, in 2030, 47% of the world population will be living in areas of high water stress and a significant percentage of businesses will be operating there too.
  4. A 2014 survey of the FTSE 500 companies noted that 68% believed water was a substantive risk to business up from 59% in 2011.
  5. The Global Water Intelligence suggests that $84B has been spent by business around the world to conserve, manage, or obtain water.

Water-related risk poses differing challenges for business, and the World Business Council for Sustainable Business Development identifies the following broad categories of risks: financial, operational, market, reputational, and regulatory.

Does your business understand its water footprint, where water stresses exist, or have back up plans to address insufficient availability of water?

PwC’s recent publication Collaboration: Preserving Water Through Partnering That Works provides a good overview of water challenges as well as success stories focused on the water needs of business.