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Business agricultural activities impact upon water...

Water icon…through industrial and agricultural withdrawal

Seventy per cent of freshwater withdrawn annually for human use is for agricultural irrigation and 15 to 35 per cent of this withdrawal is estimated to exceed supply. The misuse of surface and ground water displaces water flows and disrupts cycles. Water is embedded within products that are transported across the globe from areas of varying water availability; business can therefore contribute to local water scarcity. Overexploitation of water resources can decrease long term capacity and force operations to be displaced to more secure water areas. Misuse of surface and ground water sources may also spawn tensions between users and cause reputational damage as well as fuel questions around regulations and licences to operate. 

…through pollution of waterways

Pollution can occur as a result of businesses discharging substances into surface waters or groundwater without prior treatment. It can also occur inadvertently through chemical spills or leaks, trade effluent, silt accumulation or agrochemical runoff. It is often an offence to pollute waterways as this disturbs aquatic ecosystems and decreases water quality for other users as well as for future business needs. Polluting waterways can lead to reputational controversy, infringement of local legislation and increased water treatment costs. 

…through land use and infrastructure changes

While the distribution of water around the world is uneven, business activities and practices have further altered the distribution of water through land use and infrastructure changes. The removal of vegetation and deforestation for the expansion of business operations alters plant stem water flow, infiltration rate and evapotranspiration processes within local environments. Damming and irrigation also displace water and alter natural processes within aquatic ecosystems. Modifying hydrological cycles can, at a global level, lead to increased extreme weather events like storms and droughts. At a local level, changing water flows can affect water availability and quality. This can have implications on input costs as water may need to be treated or diverted before use.



Dr Gemma Cranston
Senior Programme Manager