By Kyle Newell, Senior Environmental Advisor, U.S. Chamber of Commerce BCLC

Water is the world’s most precious resource. Water scarcity complicates economic development in key parts of the Western and Southwestern United States. In many other parts of the world, it challenges social progress and basic economic growth.    By 2030, over a third of the world population will face significantly stressed water supplies, in many of the countries and regions that now drive global economic growth.

Necessity and prudence will drive companies to limit water use and human ingenuity will provide the means to improve access to potable water.  Successful companies will understand the risk and take advantage of the opportunities of a water-constrained world. Here are seven ways water could shape the future of business.  
  1. Water demand is increasing. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that by the year 2013, an estimated 36 states will experience water shortages as a result of increased water usage and inefficient water management from aging regional infrastructures.
  2. Water is not fungible.  Price does not reflect the real value of water - which causes massive underinvestment in infrastructure and waste. 
  3. All water issues are local. Water supply and infrastructure matters are typically handled at the local level in the United States. Companies need to respond accordingly.  For example, Coca-Cola states that their plants both serve markets and source the water they use locally. As such, the health of business is dependent upon the health of the people, communities and ecosystems where we operate.
  4. Some companies see water as a risk. Many companies recognize short term risks associated with water supply disturbances, often because they have already experienced disruption to operations from water scarcity.
  5. Some companies are addressing these risks. Many major corporations have developed specific water policies, strategies and plans, including water-related performance targets.
  6. Companies who manage water appropriately will have a competitive advantage. Companies who mitigate their risks, lower their exposure, and minimize resource usage increase their competitive advantage and help solidify their company’s position in the marketplace.
  7. Companies are creating and mastering new ways to improve water usage: Through Desalinization, transportation, and water efficiency methods, GE and Dow, for example, are building the tools necessary to improve water usage.
The business community must be at the forefront of water supply, conservation, sustainability and infrastructure. As Stephen E. Sandherr , the chief executive officer of the Associated General Contractors of America, put it, “There is nothing more fundamental to the strength of our economy and the health of our nation than the quality of our water.”

Learn more about businesses' role and interest in water issues by visiting Please join us at our next regional event in Las Vegas, NV, a part of the National R4 Conference - Revitalization, Reinvention, Resilience, Responsibility at

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7 Ways Water will Shape the Future of Business 6/2/2011
Water is the world’s most precious resource. Water scarcity complicates economic development in key parts of the Western and Southwestern United States. In ma