In the 9th APWF webinar, organized on 15 Apr 2021, the APWF welcomed Ms. Megan McLeod, CEO of Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS) Asia-Pacific as the speaker and discussed engaging industry in sustainable water management through water stewardship.
Water stewardship is the instrument with which the industry itself can take the initiative to implement Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM). AWS provides the International Water Stewardship Standard (AWS Standard) to encourage industry to manage water that is socially and culturally equitable, environmentally sustainable, and economically beneficial across a basin through a stakeholder-inclusive process involving site-and catchment-based actions.
Following a brief introduction to water stewardship, Ms. McLeod shared practical examples from industries across the region, such as food and beverage manufacturer (Japan: Suntory), ICT sector (China: Kunshan, Taiwan: TSMC), and irrigation sector (South Australia: Renmark Irrigation Trust), where the AWS Standard is being used to drive sustainable action on water at the site, catchment, and supply-chain levels.
Suntory received formal certification against the AWS Standard in December 2018 at the Suntory Okudaisen Bunanomori Water Plant [i], the first certification in Japan. In January 2020, it also received recognition at the Kyushu Kumamoto Plant concerning its sustainable water use in the basin around the plant [ii]. In the Kyushu Kumamoto Plant case, the site highly evaluates its efforts to understand its water intake and outflows in the basin around the plant, activities for groundwater recharge through fuyumizutanbo [iii] based on scientific data, water conservation, and quality management at the plant, forest protection activities under its Natural Water Sanctuary Aso Project in the roughly 420 ha of forests around the plant, as well as cooperation with stakeholders around the groundwater basin, environmental education for future generations in Japan and overseas, and appropriate information disclosure in line with its philosophy “To Create Harmony with People and Nature” and the promise of “living with nature” to stakeholders.
Another sector that sees rapid uptake of water stewardship is the information and communications technologies (ICT) sector.
Kunshan City, China, is a significant microelectronics manufacturing hub; on the other hand, rapid industrial development led to increasing river pollution and reached critical levels. The National Government proposed to shut down the factories. However, The Kunshan municipal government and the microelectronics sectors focused attention on the water stewardship approach. It enabled manufacturers in the region to identify their water management strengths and opportunities, make improvements, demonstrate good water management practices, and manage water-related regulatory and legal risks. Since 2017, Nine microelectronics manufacturers in the city have been certified against the AWS standard. This successful collaboration led to the Kunshan government announcing incentive payments for the industry to adopt water stewardship toward sustainable water resource management.
In Tainan, Taiwan [iv], water stewardship by TSMC is helping to restore ecosystems and the habitat of fireflies.
Water stewardship is also applicable to the agricultural field. The Renmark Irrigation Trust (RIT), established in 1887, has been implementing water stewardship since 2016. Their infrastructure delivers water to over 600 irrigators covering more than 4500 Hectares throughout the Renmark district at 98% delivery efficiency. Beyond water-use efficiency, the water stewardship approach enabled collaboration with local catchment stakeholders, which led to their landmark agreement to rehabilitate and protect the environment and their surrounding wetlands.
Ms. McLeod presented that water stewardship encourages collaboration among watershed communities through a voluntary initiative by industry toward sustainable catchment management, which has brought various environmental, social, and economic benefits. She also summarized the motivations and constraints of the private sector in taking a water stewardship approach and what is needed to implement the initiative.
In conclusion, Ms. McLeod emphasized her recommendations to the government, finance institutions, and individuals to further their actions.
For governments, she recommended that their policy connects with water stewardship initiatives, including those involving private companies. Governments, particularly those with few resources to support water user associations and other local water user groups, can promote momentum for water resource management at the catchment level by encouraging companies to work through water stewardship initiatives [v].
On the other hand, government and investors have a role to play in incentivising sustainable water use, especially for small- to medium- enterprises (SMEs) and in developing countries where enterprises may have a hard time accessing capital to invest in sustainable practices [vi].
Finally, she proposed that individuals change the ‘culture of water,’ so utilities and water professionals bring water customers, industry, government, and other stakeholders into the process. The water industry must shift from exclusively technical solutions to one that acknowledges behavioral change and encourages collaboration [vii].
Presentation and the recording:
[i] Suntory Okudaisen Bunanomori Water Plant becomes first in Japan to be certified by the Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS) (8 Jan 2019)
[ii] Suntory Kyushu Kumamoto Plant Receives Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS) Certification (7 Jan 2020)
[iii] “Fuyumizutanbo” is a traditional agricultural method that entails the spreading out of the water over rice paddies during the winter when they fallow, with the goal being the formation of fertile soil and the reduction of weeds. Efficient groundwater cultivation is expected as the result of water penetration into the ground. The Suntory Group has been conducting “fuyumizutanbo” activities in cooperation with the government and region in Mashiki, Kumamoto, since 2010 to bring about more broad-ranging functionality of groundwater cultivation.
[iv] TSMC’s activities https://esg.tsmc.com/csr/en/focus/greenManufacturing/waterResourceManagement.html
[v] Dalton J., and Newborne P. (2016). Water management and stewardship. IUCN: Geneva. Accessible at https://portals.iucn.org/library/sites/library/files/documents/2016-069.pdf
[vi] Maennicke O. and Honerhoff J. (2021). Chapter 18: Development finance: Encouraging sustainable water use by industry. In Davis C. & Rosenblum E. (eds.) (2021) Sustainable Industrial Water Use: Perspectives, incentives, and tools. IWA Publishing: London. Accessible at https://doi.org/10.2166/9781789060676_0207
[vii] Spencer M. (2021). Chapter 22: The culture of water needs to change. In Davis C. & Rosenblum E. (eds.) (2021) Sustainable Industrial Water Use: Perspectives, incentives, and tools. IWA Publishing: London. Accessible at https://doi.org/10.2166/9781789060676_0243
(Reported by Yumiko Asayama, Manager)