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Why water is critical to Australian businesses

Jan Pacas /

water small business

Ecolab managing director Jan Pacas. Source: Supplied.

From agriculture to mining, water sits at the centre of the economy and is fundamental to Australia’s $1.69 trillion GDP. For years, academics and business analysts have explored the links between water and economic growth, with the majority concluding improved access to water has a direct and positive impact on people and communities, which leads to significant social, economic and environmental benefits. Living Waterfor example, predicts 75% of the global workforce have jobs that are either moderately or heavily dependent on water, demonstrating how valuable this resource truly is.

In Australia, water is vital to maintain our health, grow food, manage the environment and create jobs. Why then, has it become so undervalued? 

The United Nations has long been seeking to address the global water crisis caused by the increased demand being placed on water resources to meet human, commercial and agricultural needs. But the facts remain: freshwater makes up less than 3% of the world’s water supply, and less than 1% of that water is accessible. 

Improving the efficiency with which we use water is, by far, the best strategy for dealing with the water crisis. But water needs a champion. Economically, politically and environmentally, there is a need for strong leadership and pragmatic collaboration to overcome the challenges facing this valuable resource. Leaders in business and government alike will need to work with counterparts across academia and civil society to prepare for shortages, while urgently working to improve water efficiency through water management programs across key sectors, such as business, agriculture and hospitality.

There is a need for innovation across Australia to address water scarcity, from investment in water infrastructure and technology to improved legislation governing water use. In addition, water must become a business priority. While organisations acknowledge that addressing the growing water shortage should be a priority, half of them have no plan in place to actually achieve water-reduction goals, which needs to change.

There is a tremendous opportunity for Australian organisations to lead the charge on sustainability, thanks to their agility and adaptability. And, like many sustainability measures, it can start with simple changes that will help businesses conserve water and make a positive environmental impact.

Key attributes of successful water conservation are as follows.

  1. The establishment of a water management plan with goals that are aligned with overarching business and sustainability strategies. Start with a water audit to understand just how much water you are using, and the rest will flow from here.
  2. Educate and empower employees with workplace initiatives that will inspire and motivate your team to use less water. Educate them on your company’s sustainability goals and establish water restriction targets.
  3. Be informed about the water issues facing your state and community. Aim to continually identify opportunities to minimise water risks that are in keeping with the community in which you serve, work and live. This will allow you to maximise performance results and optimise operations (reduce, reuse and recycle applies for water too).
  4. Contact your building management team and request they install low-flow restrictors to restrict water use via toilets and faucets. As part of this, invest in low-water-use appliances and put in place best practices for using them.
  5. Sustainable landscaping is essential. Choosing the right plants and minimising grass will considerably reduce landscape water needs while nipping upkeep costs in the bud.

Water scarcity needs to be addressed with long-term approaches to water management across every industry. From improving operational efficiency to driving sustainable company culture, there are several strategies that have a significant role to play on the journey towards sustainability. 

NOW READ: “Pure economic sense”: Five easy ways your business can become more sustainable

NOW READ: Wind, water and Australian sun: Five startups making waves in renewable energy

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Jan Pacas

Jan is the ANZ region managing director at Ecolab, a co-founder of Mad Paws and a co-founder of Flare HR. He is also an advisory board member at The University of Sydney Business School, and in 2015, was named CEO of the Year by the AHRI.

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