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PLANETARY BOUNDARY #6 FRESHWATER USAGE: The impact of corporate water usage

1. Access to fresh water is a basic human right. Currently 1 in 3 people on our planet don’t have access to safe drinking water* and the population is growing [1]

2. The world’s largest companies use over 16.5 bn m3 of water annually – enough to fill 6.6 million Olympic swimming pools. More than 2/3 of the world’s largest companies have not set targets to reduce the total amount of water they use

3. When measuring - it’s about absolute and intensity measures – absolute is your total usage. When target setting - you need to set context-based water targets to address the needs of a given watershed or catchment area. Water issues are primarily local—each basin has unique challenges. Think local and know if you are operating in a water scarce region

4. By 2025, half of the world’s population will be living in water-stressed areas [2], there will be increasing attention paid to organisations operating in water scarce regions and how they are ensuring fair access to clean water for all

5. Water is fundamentally a shared resource, so solutions need to involve all water users (now and in the future) – from agriculture to nature, and from local populations to other business users. The majority of water use for many companies will be in their supply chain – particularly for agriculture

6. Water ‘quality’ also needs to be considered. It is not just about how much water companies use, it’s also about how they return the water back to the watershed as they ‘took it’ (e.g. quality, temperature, pH etc.)


1. UNICEF & the World Health Organisation 2019

2. The World Health Organisation

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