Stockholm World Water Week – 8 Top Picks

By Debra Tan 11 September, 2012

Debra Tan runs through eight points of interest from this year's Stockholm's World Water Week

Food security can be solved through food waste and vegetarianism
Corporates should take more responsibility for water use
Finally, some tools to quantify optimal water-energy trade-offs: blackouts can be avoided in a changing water landscape

This year’s World Water Week (WWW) focused on Water & Food Security. In case you have not been following us on Twitter, here are some of the top picks/ hot topics of the week:

1. Vegetarian – to be or not to be

A report issued by the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) during WWW on 26 August 2012 kicked off the debate. It stated that meat consumption must decrease from the current 20% of protein consumption to 5% in order to feed the expected population of 9 billion by 2050.

This prompted The Guardian headline “Food shortages could force world into vegetarianism, warn scientists”. Check out our snapshot of water in our daily diet in our BIG PICTURE Water Foodprint.

Predictably some other scientists fired back a NO. According to Dr. Steve Washburn, animal science professor and extension specialist at North Carolina State University, livestock grazing is a part of crop rotation and may mean less fertilizer for the land.

2. Tipping point: Has the time come for corporates to take more responsibility for water use?

“The industries with the highest potential for water saving were identified: the textile industry, the chemical industry and the electric power industry”

Policy Support and Barriers to Resource Management in Water Scarce Regions

A study was conducted in China to examine water use across sectors in order to determine how technologies could increase water use efficiency given policy support and barriers to resource management for water scarce regions. The result? “The industries with the highest potential for water saving were identified: the textile industry, the chemical industry and the electric power industry”

Couldn’t agree more! (we have been harping on about textiles here and power here). So do these industries need to start taking more responsibility for improving water efficiency in China? Well … the study was part of an EU-funded Coordination Action in collaboration with the Foreign Economic Cooperation Office of the Chinese Ministry of Environmental Protection, the Development Research Centre of the Chinese Ministry of Water Resources and Tsinghua University in Beijing… is the answer obvious?

Closer to home, we are encouraged that the Hong Kong Exchange (HKEx) is stepping up disclosure with new ESG disclosure requirements and KPIs. The new ESG Guidelines for listed companies encourages issuers with a financial year ending after 31 December 2012 to implement the ESG rules. KPIs include water use and pollution (for our summary of these KPIs click here). The HKEx has indicate3d that it plans to raise the level of obligation to “comply or explain” by 2015. Maybe the time to measure how much water we use has come after all.

3. Pepsi wins! Recognition that water risk is beyond the price of water

Whilst some corporates have just started, others are racing ahead in recognizing and adapting to the fact that water risk lies beyond a water tariff hike. Kudos to Pepsi for winning the Stockholm Industry Water Award for leadership and sustainable development of the water sector. PepsiCo was awarded the prize for successfully reducing water consumption in its production AND for its commitment beyond their factory walls in saving water all along its agricultural supply chain. The company was also commended as a leader in extending its commitment beyond the company’s own operations to help solve water challenges on a broad scale. Perhaps water footprinting and water risk, pioneered by SIWI, are finally becoming the mainstream concepts they deserve to be. (See what institutional investors with an AUM of US$1.8trillion had to say about water risk here.)

4. Taste the waste of water to ensure food security

YUCK is what springs to mind … but it is well worth checking out the under-6-mins short produced for SIWI on: Taste the Waste of Water launched at WWW to highlight the issue of water and food waste.

“More than one-fourth of all the water we use worldwide is taken to grow over one billion tons of food that nobody eats. That water, together with the billions of dollars spent to grow, ship, package and purchase the food, is sent down the drain.” Said Torgny Holmgren, Executive Director of SIWI. “Reducing the waste of food is the smartest and most direct route to relieve pressure on water and land resources. It’s an opportunity we cannot afford to overlook,” he added. We wholly agree – read about our views on China’s food security, food waste and imports here

5. The young lead the way … If so, Singapore’s ahead

Whilst the 2012 Stockholm Water Prize Laureate was won by The International Water Management Institute (IWMI), with headquarters in Colombo, Sri Lanka, for their pioneering research that has served to improve agriculture water management, enhance food security, protect environmental health and alleviate poverty in developing countries … the Junior Water Prize was won by Singapore. 28 nations participated from US, UK, Australia, China, Japan, Korea to the Ukraine but winners Luigi Marshall Cham, Jun Yong Nicholas Lim and Tian Ting Carrie-Anne Ng, aged 18, all hail from Singapore. If the young lead the future, it looks like Singapore is well on its way to becoming the global hydrohub … check out our interview with the Economic Development Board’s head of cleantech

6. Access to clean water: surely this is fixable? It’s a matter of how we look at it

Surely, this is something else that should be fixable … UNICEF cited during SIWI an earlier report issued in March by UNICEF & WHO on Progress on Drinking Water and Sanitation 2012, that whilst more than 2 billion gained access to improved sources of drinking water between 1990-2010, 783 million still have no access to water. UNICEF admitted that the hardest part is yet to come in providing drinking water to the remaining millions. Also discussed at SIWI was that women and girls throughout Africa spend millions of hours collecting water.


Earlier this year, the UN estimated the cost of solving this and providing access to safe water to be US$30 billion. The global bottled water market is estimated to reach $65.9 billion by 2012. Maybe a bottled water “tax” of should be in place? Or how about a “golf water tax”? The water required to water the worlds golf courses should be enough for 4.7billion people at the UN daily water minimum  … in light of these numbers surely the problem is fixable.



7. New analytical models to address water-energy nexus

Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) thinks the world can avoid a water crisis if risks are timely and wisely managed. But interconnections between water, food and energy, must be first acknowledged and addressed. Basic questions need to be answered: how much water is used in fuel extraction? how much energy is then in turn used in water treatment and distribution? SEI launched a new analytical platform to address the water energy nexus in  the form of LEAP (Long-range Energy Alternatives Planning) and WEAP (Water Evaluation and planning) models to quantify optimal water-energy trade-offs.

8. Fundamental shifts we can’t ignore

These models to quantify optimal water-energy trade-offs couldn’t be more timely. Climate change, is like steroids to water scarcity, bringing about a fundamental shift in the water landscape. Alarmingly, NASA recently announced that Arctic sea ice was at the smallest extent since satellite monitoring began, in 1979. It has shrunk from 7.2 million km2 to 4.1km2 at the end of July 2012, and the melt season hasn’t ended yet … worse still, 2012 was not a particularly warm year.

Water has a part to play in recent energy shortages like the India blackouts. Everyone wants to avoid blackouts, but with China already facing a well-documented water crisis, can we afford to overlook a shifting water landscape? Will this impact China’s energy/power roll out? More on this next month… watch this space!

Reports released during World Water Week

Reports below can be found in Research & Reports or click the links below to read:

Debra Tan
Author: Debra Tan
Debra heads the CWR team and has steered the CWR brand from idea to a leader in the water risk conversation globally. Reports she has written for and with financial institutions analyzing the impact of water risks on the Power, Mining, Agricultural and Textiles industries have been considered groundbreaking and instrumental in understanding not just China’s but future global water challenges. One of these led the fashion industry to nominate CWR as a finalist for the Global Leadership Awards in Sustainable Apparel; another is helping to build consensus toward water risk valuation. Debra is a prolific speaker on water risk delivering keynotes, participating in panel discussions at water prize seminars, numerous investor & industry conferences as well as G2G and academic forums. Before venturing into “water”, she worked in finance, spending over a decade as a chartered accountant and investment banker specializing in M&A and strategic advisory. Debra left banking to pursue her interest in photography and also ran and organized philanthropic and luxury holidays for a small but global private members travel network She has lived and worked in Beijing, HK, KL, London, New York and Singapore and spends her spare time exploring glaciers in Asia.
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