By Alissa Craddock
As major cities around the world face running out of a basic yet vital resource, is now the time for the UAE to reconsider its water habits?
Water has always been a precious resource in this part of the world. Rising demand for this resource and future uncertainty around the effects of climate change have led to a need to utilise water more effectively across the country.
Businesses have a responsibility in reducing the overall demand for water – the solutions are often simple, and the benefits are quickly achieved. A water savings or ‘water stewardship’ strategy takes into consideration the role of water within a particular organisation. It involves an audit of current usage and the development of a plan of action to manage water in a sustainable and responsible manner. In most cases, the focus is to achieve a specific and measurable reduction in water consumption.
Organisations can face several challenges when it comes to developing a water stewardship strategy. A lack of resources, time, knowledge and dedicated staff can make it harder to get started. Furthermore, the size of the organisation can greatly influence the time required for planning and coordination required for successful implementation.
However, once in place, the benefits can be recognised quickly; here in the UAE, water conservation efforts can pay off financially in as little as one year and five months.
Here in the UAE, water conservation efforts can pay off financially in as little as one year and five months
Ultimately, by embracing water saving practices, an organisation stands to reduce its environmental footprint, safeguard local sources of water for future consumption, increase operational efficiency, minimise operating costs and more. But how do businesses effectively develop a successful water strategy?
Outline the working spaces within the organisation and gather data around water consumption across these facilities. Establish a consumption baseline, based on usage over the past 12 months. Estimate the cost of water consumption and identify previous water saving measures, if any, to piece together the larger picture.
Commit to an overarching goal and develop a plan of action Once a basic understanding of water challenges has been established, set a comprehensive objective for your corporate water stewardship programme. Ensure that senior management is aligned with the objectives and has approved the plan to achieve the larger goal.
Involve stakeholders in the implementation of your water stewardship plan to achieve greater results. Your human resources department can help create awareness of the overall objective and the steps that colleagues can take to contribute to water reduction goals through internal communications. Depending on the type of workforce, consider crowdsourcing ideas on how to further reduce water consumption, and using rewards to incentivise changes in behaviour.
Simple water saving examples include installing signs to encourage staff to report leaking taps, toilets and showers; installing faucet aerators that mix water with air and installing low-flow toilets.
By measuring progress frequently, you will be able to better estimate the payback time of individual solutions. This is calculated by dividing the investment required for the solution by the potential water savings per year. The lower the payback, the faster you will recuperate your investment of any given solution. It is important to outline the methods by which you will track progress and set up a timeline to regularly measure effectiveness of your water saving actions. Identify programmes that are working and those that require further tweaking – then update your implementation plan accordingly.
Share updates about your organisation’s water stewardship journey internally to keep senior management up-to-date and to ensure support from colleagues at all levels within the organisation. Consider communicating externally to keep wider stakeholders in the loop of your activities and to collaborate with government organisations, third party experts and other responsible organisations.
Measuring and identifying the right indicators ensures that the water savings initiatives that have been implemented are actually working as anticipated.
The act of implementing, measuring and documenting your water stewardship results has the potential to establish your organisation as a leader in sustainability
Documenting the learnings and results of these initiatives ensures that this knowledge is shared with the stakeholders who were involved in the process, from colleagues at the organisation to senior leadership who signed off on any involved costs.
Collecting all necessary data and including these in the final report ensures that third parties can verify achievements and publicly share the case study of your initiatives in the media, at awards ceremonies and at sustainability events.
The act of implementing, measuring and documenting your water stewardship results has the potential to establish your organisation as a leader in sustainability. It’s also a great way to recognise your team’s hard work and allows you to contribute to the progress of the society at large.