Water Stewardship—Bridging the Knowledge and the Financial Gaps
Water is indispensable to life on this planet. Human, social, economic, and technological developments depend upon water. The UN’s Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights has recognized that “the human right to water is indispensable for leading a life in human dignity. It is a prerequisite for the realization of other human rights.” In the recent past, Global Risk Reports from the World Economic Forum have repeatedly identified water as one of serious risks making long term as well as sustainable water access one of the most pressing challenges of the world today.
Water poses a material risk to businesses, governments, and societies. As per the Carbon Disclosure Project, the total financial impact incurred by water-related challenges was US$ 2.5 Billion for 617 reporting major companies, and 65% of these companies have identified water as a substantive risk to their operations. These figures hint that the ‘business as usual’ approach is no longer sustainable. This chapter shifts focus toward innovative financial instruments, in particular water stewardship as a mechanism of involving businesses to assume responsibility for water management. We argue that the water stewardship approach is important to ensure just and equitable access to water and is rooted in responsible and robust water governance. Not only does it elicit responsive action from all the actors involved in water management, but it also allows them to mitigate water risks and remain viable in the longer run. As such, it puts the role and responsibility of the private sector and businesses to manage water responsibly.