He spoke on Friday, January 30 during Session V of the 2015 Colorado Water Congress Annual Convention- Capital Ideas: Public. Private. Partnerships.
A: There are a couple of different reasons. One is that water is finite. There is increase in competition for water and that is driving scarcity. There is increasing demand for this finite resource driven by population growth, economic development and the water needs for energy and agriculture.
You couple that with the fact that, really, every business needs water to some degree. No matter what your business is, you need water to continue to run your business and to grow. It becomes even more complicated in that, if you look at where future business growth is expected to be, it’s in emerging economies, on the continent of Africa or in India and China, where they are facing water scarcity and water stress.
When supply vastly exceeds demands, you typically don’t have to be efficient. Historically that’s been the mindset. But once everyone is competing for water, we need to think about water differently.
Q: Your career began in water and has now come full circle. Can you explain how you built your path?
A: I started my career as a hydrogeologist. I was putting in water supply wells and working on large groundwater remediation In the late 90’s, I started my own consulting company at which point I really started to focus on sustainability. I wanted to build a company that was delivering sustainability consulting services to private sector companies.
Over the past several years water became more of a corporate issue and this is an area I wanted to focus on. Beverage companies in particular were starting to develop thinking and strategies to manage water and ultimately be stewards of water. That’s when I decided to build explicitly on water and look at it from a business perspective.
Q: In your book, “Corporate Water Strategies”, you argue that water is a critical business issue. How can Colorado’s water industry benefit from this recognition by business leaders in the state?
A: One of the things that has happened over the past several years is that stakeholders are no longer operating in silos. Nobody looks at tackling water stewardship issues alone. Now there is a “collective action” mindset to solve complex water quantify and quality issues.
Water is a “wicked problem” its complex and takes a range of stakeholders to solve. So every multinational company that has a water strategy typically will partner with one or more NGO’s to address access to safe water and hygiene in addition to water for business purposes.
The boundaries are getting blurry and you have collective action platforms that are driving cooperation to solve water quality and water scarcity issues. The State of Colorado is no different than any other part of the world where water is increasingly precious.
Q: How have you seen these partnerships playing out any differently with the Prior Appropriation and Riparian Law water rights systems?
A: There is not much of a difference. The issue is the same, regardless of water rights. I’m active in projects globally and have seen that wherever there’s competition for water and stakeholders who care, there’s a push to collaborate on solving whatever problems.
Q: On what grounds do you believe we can build relationships with the business community?
A: Governments, utilities, private sector companies, and NGO’s all need to get out of their silos a bit and recognize that this is a common issue.
For me innovation develops around collective action; getting people in the room to solve water related challenges – this is part of my job.
Q: Your book talks about how companies need to develop a corporate water strategy. Can you please summarize why this is?
A: Companies need to understand water related risk and then determine how to manage that risk just like any other risk. We need to view water in a similar fashion as any other enterprise risk.
Q: Which industries are paving the way in terms of sustainable water management?
A: Historically this has been a consumer product, food and beverage industry issue. Those folks have been at this for quite some time and are typically leading those programs. Recently we’ve started seeing other industry sectors- mining, oil and gas companies, manufacturing automotive, semiconductor manufacturing companies- employing best practices.
Q: Can you give me an example of a company-non-governmental partnership? What benefits have both derived from this joint effort?
A: One example of the collective action platforms I was discussing is the CEO Water Mandate which currently has 120 companies signed up. The CEO’s of these companies acknowledge that water is an important issue and they commit to taking a number of steps. What it has done is develop a Water Action Hub online tool to identify stakeholders in individual watersheds who are interested in collaborating on water quantity and quality issues.
The 2030 Water Resources Group is another public-private-NGO framework. It brings together multinationals and NGO’s to work with the public sector nationally in order to leverage technology innovation to drive greater efficiency.
One of the things that we are seeing is a move by the private sector to quantify business value at risk from water scarcity. We’re also seeing the public sector at the state level quantify the economic value of water and its importance to a state economy and the region.