US: World Resources Institute’s Aqueduct project has unveiled the Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas which shows maps of freshwater globally. The interface allows companies, investors, governments or any other interested party to visualise and compare water conditions, from the continental scale to the local one.
“As important as water is, we give it very little attention,” said Betsy Otto, the project’s director. “We haven’t invested as we should in pricing, tracking and locating water in ways that make most sense for human economies.”
Otto thinks that if companies have the means to take water risks into consideration, they will do so. Many companies have already made that commitment, and some are partners on the Aqueduct project, including Goldman Sachs, General Electric, Bloomberg, Talisman Energy and Dow.
“For us, water is a strategic issue,” said Kyung-Ah Park, head of the environmental markets group at Goldman Sachs. “We look at supply chain issues and disruptions which could have an implication on our client’s bottom line.”
The full version of the atlas, three years in the making, harnesses the latest geo-tagged scientific data to create 12 different indicators of water quality, including drought, flood and seasonal variability. The indicators visually overlay one another to create a composite view of aggregate water stress. The ecosystems layer, for example, highlights fragile habitats where freshwater fishes, amphibians and birds may live, while the groundwater supply layer — the first of its kind to be included in such an analysis — indicates places where aquifers might be drying up.
Not every user, however, defines risk in the same way, and the tool enables you to weigh different indicators accordingly. Aqueduct also provides preset water scenarios tailored to 10 different sectors, including semiconductor manufacturing, textiles, and oil and gas. More advanced users can shape the maps to fit individual needs.
“Once a company develops a map to perfectly reflect its scenario, it can compare which places expose its operation to the highest risk,” said Robert Kimball , an associate at the World Resources Institute. “We want the information to be out there in an easily usable, accessible way.”