For the ambitious company wanting to move towards a systematic approach on water issues, AWS is the ultimate standard. The stewardship approach encourages companies to move beyond the facility fence line and promotes multi-stakeholder collaboration in the catchment, necessary for solving joint water challenges.

Description

The Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS) Standard defines a set of water stewardship criteria and indicators for how water should be stewarded at a site and catchment level in a way that is environmentally, socially, and economically beneficial. The Standard has three levels: core, gold and platinum, with the latter two achieved via conformity with advanced criteria each with attached scores. The Standard’s criteria, indicators and guidance provide water stewards with a six-step continual improvement framework that enables sites to commit to, understand, plan, implement, evaluate and communicate water stewardship actions.

The AWS Standard can be implemented by any site, in any sector, in any catchment around the world. It is governed by the members of the Alliance for Water Stewardship and informed by a technical advisory group. The Alliance for Water Stewardship is a multi-stakeholder non-profit organization with members from the private sector. The water stewardship methodology builds on an understanding of taking a catchment-based approach to water management where collaborative approaches are implemented in order to solve shared water risks. The AWS Standard can be used either as a guide for responsible water stewardship or as the basis for conformity under AWS verification (including third-party certification). In addition to membership and verification, AWS also offers water stewardship training to those interested in understanding water stewardship, implementing the AWS Standard or working within the AWS system, including consultants, trainers and auditors. The standard is very site-specific which gives great local applicability, but makes data comparison difficult. It is a particularly useful framework for working with important sites or supply chains in basins facing high water risk.

Farming

The company shall gather data, understand and maintain or improve (while considering expected future trends of) the site’s water governance (policies, regulation, goals, on-going initiatives and incident response plans) and water balance. The same goes for the status of important water-related areas and water infrastructure (exposure to extreme events), indirect water use including primary inputs, the water use embedded in the production of those primary inputs and, where their origin can be identified, the status of the waters at the origin of the inputs. Furthermore, water used in outsourced water-related services within the catchment, water-related challenges that affect the environmental status of the catchment and water-related opportunities should be assessed.

For advanced-level water stewardship, the company must also gather detailed water-related data, explore water usability under future climatic, economic and social scenarios, conduct a detailed, indirect water use evaluation and report on the catchment’s groundwater status. Furthermore, it should strengthen capacity in water governance, advance regionally specific industrial water-related benchmarking, re-allocate saved water for social or environmental needs, engage in collective action to address shared water challenges, drive reduced indirect water use throughout the site’s supply chain and outsourced water-related service providers.

The quality of input water should be measured. The chosen parameters of concern are intended to relate to chemical parameters related to water quality issues of shared concern OR water quality issues known to be of concern to the site and sector (given known effluent). Additionally, the company shall gather data, understand and maintain or improve (while considering expected future trends of) the site’s water quality (physical, chemical and biological) for influent and effluent water.

Water use for primary inputs should be calculated, both for direct and indirect water use. Chemicals and natural organic inputs are also mentioned as parameters to check in order to assess water quality.

Water use for primary inputs should be calculated, both for direct and indirect water use. The level of pesticides is listed as one common water quality parameter of concern.

Water-related infrastructure (built and natural) and Important Water-Related Areas (including environmental: aquifer recharge areas, breeding areas for freshwater species, areas of high productivity such as wetlands, deltas, estuaries, social: swimming areas, fishing spots and cultural: e.g. cultural gathering sites) should be assessed in terms of current status and general future trends. Important Water-Related Areas include High Conservation Value Areas. The status of Important Water-Related Areas should be maintained or improved. Where Important Water-Related Area degradation is a shared water challenge, the site must improve its efforts until best practices are met, and the site must not knowingly cause any further degradation of such areas on site. Owners of shared water-related infrastructure must be notified of any concerns. In the case where data are not available or relevant stakeholders are not willing to share these data, the site will meet the criterion for the effort, even if data are not collected.

For advanced-level water stewardship, the company should achieve best practice results on Important Water-Related Areas through restoration with respect to its targets and complete restoration of non-functioning or severely degraded Important Water-Related Areas as informed by stakeholder consensus or credible expert opinion. Data on the abundance of native freshwater species, abundance of freshwater species within the area of influence that are vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered, abundance of non-native or invasive species and area of high-value habitats are included as indicators that should be assessed in order to fulfil the check point to understand and prioritize the site’s water risks and opportunities at a catchment level.

Included in the site water balance calculations. Activities to improve the water balance include recycling water through e.g. greywater usage, close-looped systems and water recovery. The company shall report the total volume of water recycled and reused by the organization. Furthermore it should report the total volume of water recycled and reused as a percentage of the total water withdrawal (reported under Indicator G4-EN8).

Additionally, the company should ensure that any water saved by the site’s actions to improve the water balance is voluntarily re-allocated for social or environmental purposes that are recognized needs in the catchment.

The company must respect water-related rights, ensuring appropriate access to safe drinking water, adequate sanitation and hygiene awareness for all workers in all premises under the site’s control. The company should work together with the relevant public-sector agency in the implementation of related plans and policies. Furthermore, it must prioritize the use of water for communities’ personal and domestic use over and above the needs of the site during periods in which basic water needs cannot be met. The site shall publicly commit that if the human right cannot be met, and if requested by the community, it will provide 20 litres per person and day of its on allocations to the community.

Data on the time spent for local people to access areas to perform clothes washing or bathing, percentage of the community that have access to sanitation and prevalence of diseases such as malaria are included indicators that should be assessed in order to understand and prioritize the site’s water risks and opportunities at a catchment level.

For advanced level, the company should additionally, in coordination with public authorities, assist in the provision of appropriate access to WASH off-site within the catchment.

A climate change adaptation plan should be developed in coordination with relevant public sector agencies and infrastructure management entities. The plan should include strategies for mitigating climate change impacts including those affecting shared water infrastructure.

Data on the site’s natural control on pests and disease vectors, flood retention and groundwater recharge capacity are examples included as indicators that should be assessed in order to understand and prioritize the site’s water risks and opportunities at a catchment level.

Furthermore, the site’s responsiveness and resilience should be demonstrated in an incident response plan.

The company shall gather data, understand and maintain or improve (while considering expected future trends) the site’s water balance and water quality (physical, chemical and biological) for input and discharge water. Water risks and opportunities should be identified on the site and catchment level. The site’s effluent water discharge should be of equivalent or better quality than influent water quality status. Examples of actions to prevent water quality degradation are wastewater treatment, storm water management, non-agricultural (or agricultural if applicable) non-point source abatement and control, aquatic habitat restoration (notably wetlands and other land cover forms that perform water filtration ecosystem services) and maintenance/restoration of riparian corridors (especially in cases of erosion).

Data on soil erosion should be assessed in order to “understand and prioritize the site’s water risks and opportunities at a catchment level”. This can be assessed by calculating the ratio of soil erosion and sediment deposition to natural soil erosion and sediment deposition processes. Riparian corridors should be maintained or restored in order to prevent erosion (for the purpose of water quality).

Important Water-Related Areas (areas which provide key ecosystem services; one being soil fertility maintenance) should be kept in a healthy state. See Biodiversity impacts for more information about Important Water-Related Areas.

Processing

The company shall gather data, understand and maintain or improve (while considering expected future trends of) the site’s water governance (policies, regulation, goals, on-going initiatives and incident response plans) and water balance. The same goes for the status of important water-related areas and water infrastructure (exposure to extreme events), indirect water use including primary inputs, the water use embedded in the production of those primary inputs and, where their origin can be identified, the status of the waters at the origin of the inputs. Furthermore, water used in outsourced water-related services within the catchment, water-related challenges that affect the environmental status of the catchment and water-related opportunities should be assessed.

For advanced-level water stewardship, the company must also gather detailed water-related data, explore water usability under future climatic, economic and social scenarios, conduct a detailed, indirect water use evaluation and report on the catchment’s groundwater status. Furthermore, it should strengthen capacity in water governance, advance regionally specific industrial water-related benchmarking, re-allocate saved water for social or environmental needs, engage in collective action to address shared water challenges, drive reduced indirect water use throughout the site’s supply chain and outsourced water-related service providers.

The quality of input water should be measured. The chosen parameters of concern are intended to relate to chemical parameters related to water quality issues of shared concern OR water quality issues known to be of concern to the site and sector (given known effluent). Additionally, the company shall gather data, understand and maintain or improve (while considering expected future trends of) the site’s water quality (physical, chemical and biological) for influent and effluent water.

The company shall gather data, understand and maintain or improve (while considering expected future trends) the site’s water balance and water quality (physical, chemical and biological) for input and discharge water. Water risks and opportunities should be identified on the site and catchment level. The site’s effluent water discharge should be of equivalent or better quality than influent water quality status. Examples of actions to prevent water quality degradation are wastewater treatment, storm water management, non-agricultural (or agricultural if applicable) non-point source abatement and control, aquatic habitat restoration (notably wetlands and other land cover forms that perform water filtration ecosystem services) and maintenance/restoration of riparian corridors (especially in cases of erosion).

Solid waste treatment is mentioned as one example of water quality improving activities.

Water used for cooling and heating is included in the water balance calculations. Energy calculations and related costs include energy consumed for the heating, cooling and steaming of water.

Included in the mandatory water balance calculations.

Included in the site water balance calculations. Activities to improve the water balance include recycling water through e.g. greywater usage, close-looped systems and water recovery. The company shall report the total volume of water recycled and reused by the organization. Furthermore it should report the total volume of water recycled and reused as a percentage of the total water withdrawal (reported under Indicator G4-EN8).

Additionally, the company should ensure that any water saved by the site’s actions to improve the water balance is voluntarily re-allocated for social or environmental purposes that are recognized needs in the catchment.

Included in the mandatory site water balance calculations.

Water used in the generation of energy for a process (primary input) is included in the calculations of direct and indirect water use. Besides, the company shall gather data on water-related costs including energy consumption for the movement of water, cooling and heating. It is recommended that the water stewardship strategy plan considers food-energy-water nexus issues facing the catchment.

The company must respect water-related rights, ensuring appropriate access to safe drinking water, adequate sanitation and hygiene awareness for all workers in all premises under the site’s control. The company should work together with the relevant public-sector agency in the implementation of related plans and policies. Furthermore, it must prioritize the use of water for communities’ personal and domestic use over and above the needs of the site during periods in which basic water needs cannot be met. The site shall publicly commit that if the human right cannot be met, and if requested by the community, it will provide 20 litres per person and day of its on allocations to the community.

Data on the time spent for local people to access areas to perform clothes washing or bathing, percentage of the community that have access to sanitation and prevalence of diseases such as malaria are included indicators that should be assessed in order to understand and prioritize the site’s water risks and opportunities at a catchment level.

For advanced level, the company should additionally, in coordination with public authorities, assist in the provision of appropriate access to WASH off-site within the catchment.

Important Water-Related Areas (see Biodiversity impacts) include areas which provide key ecosystem services, of which one example is climate regulation, including carbon sequestration. Data on carbon sequestration capacity is included as one indicator that should be assessed in order to understand and prioritize the site’s water risks and opportunities at a catchment level.

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