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Water set to be ‘next carbon’

Water could be the next natural resource that companies will
need to account for and manage the use of, as the impact of water scarcity
tightens regulation and raises the cost of supply.

According to a recent study by PricewaterhouseCoopers on the impact of water
scarcity, this is an issue business must start tackling now, ahead of any
legislative or government pressure. The energy production business, in
particular, must look into its water usage as it currently accounts for 31% of
all water usage in the European Union and 39% in the US. It also forecasts that
European Union energy production will grow 50% by 2030 and that water
consumption by the energy sector could increase by 130% over that period.

“Water is increasingly seen by companies and economists as the ‘next carbon’.
Leading companies are taking steps to understand the implications of water
availability and forthcoming water regulation on their businesses and some are
already measuring and reporting their water footprints and water intensity of
their products,” says Dr Celine Herweijer, a member of PwC’s sustainability and
climate change division, citing SABMiller and Nestlé as examples of two very
water-dependent companies that have produced their own water footprints.

Electric shock
A recent report by the UK’s Environment Agency shows electricity generation is
one of the largest users of water in the UK at 10,000 mega-litres used every
year, with 3,400 litres used per person, per day to produce foods and goods. The
report adds that southeastern parts of the UK are facing ‘water stress’ in the
near- term and says this will increase, driven, in part, by population growth in
the region.

PwC will release its report, Water Scarcity & climate Change: Growing
Risks for Businesses & Investors,
in spring 2010.

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