What Businesses Can Do To Mark World Water Day
World Water Day is just around the corner, an awareness campaign that takes place on March 22nd every year to celebrate water and raise awareness of the two billion people who live without access to safe water.
A core focus of the campaign is to drive action towards water and sanitation for all by the year 2030, which is Goal 6 of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.
Although significant progress has been made in increasing access to clean drinking water and sanitation, there are still billions around the world who lack these basic services, predominantly in rural areas.
Globally, one in three people currently don’t have access to safe drinking water, while two out of five don’t have basic facilities to wash their hands with soap and water and over 673 million still practise open defecation.
The pandemic really shone a light on these issues and just how important sanitation and hygiene are, as well as appropriate access to clean water to prevent and contain diseases. Despite this, there are still billions of people around the world lacking safe water sanitation, with inadequate funding in place to resolve the situation.
The importance of groundwater
The majority of the world’s liquid freshwater is groundwater (found underground in aquifers), which supports ecosystems, farming, industry, sanitation and drinking water.
However, because of human activity, these resources are becoming overused and polluted and, as such, it is now necessary for the world to pull together to manage groundwater in a sustainable way to help us all adapt to climate change.
It is becoming more important to protect groundwater from pollution, because it can take decades or even centuries for resources to recover themselves.
Groundwater also needs to be used sustainably to balance the needs of both the planet and people – and this will be key for us to survive and adapt to climate change, while ensuring that the needs of a growing population are met.
In an article for the Stockholm International Water Institute, Dr Jenny Gronwall, an adviser on water policy and rights, explains that groundwater governance is the key to addressing the concerns and challenges facing resources and those who use them.
This will require a collaborative approach between processes and people, covering the mechanisms and frameworks for decision-making, and those involved in or affected by the outcome of these decisions.
Dr Gronwall goes on to note that, for the public sector, advocacy for reform will require turning against the idea of market forces and self-regulation – at least in part – and bring in a set of normative principles that will deliver further legitimacy and efficiency where decisions relating to natural resources are concerned.
Furthermore, work methods and decision-making will need to be permeated by prescriptions for what makes up ‘good’ governance, in order to deliver new values and ideals. For example, community-based management could be encouraged for both villages and peri-urban environments to build capacity and improve inclusion.
Decision-making can also be informed by participatory groundwater mapping and monitoring, and through the use of ground-truthing and field surveys to complement remote sensing.
As for the private sector, the publishing of supplier lists can increase transparency and traceability, which enables decision-makers to visualise the availability of groundwater and variation over time, as well as holding companies accountable against their own codes of conduct.
What can businesses do to protect groundwater?
If you’re carrying out activities that could potentially affect the quality or quantity of groundwater, it is important to understand what groundwater is and how your operations may have an impact on it.
Any discharge of pollutants that enter groundwater directly, or which enter the soil and reach groundwater in this way is considered a groundwater activity by the Environment Agency.
In order to carry out such activities, you will need to have an environmental permit in place, have an exemption or know that your activity has an exclusion.
An abstraction licence is required if you want to take out more than 20 cubic metres of water a day from an underground source. Local water availability should be considered, as well as location and other users when activities are being planned.
It is also necessary for businesses to do all they can to prevent groundwater pollution by following the conditions of any permits or exemptions that have been set.
Being aware of the different types of pollutants that can arise from human activity is a good first step to take to help protect groundwater resources.
Activities could include underground fuel storage leaks, sewage leaks, rubbish tip leaching and industrial chemical contamination. Where groundwater is concerned, common contaminants include sewerage, animal waste, pesticides, herbicides, industrial waste and radioactive material.
It is also useful to familiarise yourself with the particular risks associated with the industry you’re in so you can mitigate them as and where appropriate. Agriculture, for example, can pollute groundwater with animal waste and pesticide, while mining can see chemicals or metals enter aquifers.
Being proactive can also really help protect the natural environment and a groundwater assessment can help you see what impact you’re having on resources, if any. Regular testing can help you boost your green credentials even more and protect these precious resources for future generations.
Contamination and pollution can go undetected for a long time and it can prove very costly indeed to have to engage in cleanup operations. In fact, it may be that it is actually impossible for groundwater sources to be cleansed of contaminants – so prevention is certainly better than cure.
As such, with World Water Day just a few short weeks away, there’s no time like the present to review your business operations and see if there are any ways in which you can go about making changes and improvements to your activities to afford groundwater sources even more protection now and well into the future.
Do you want to switch water supplier this year? Get in touch with SwitchWaterSupplier.com today to see how we can help.