How good is WRI’s water-risk mapping tool?

A screen shot of the Aqueduct atlas launched by WRI

Though water is the gold of the future global corporations are finding themselves in a rather sticky situation at present because of the double-edged sword that the commodity is. Water offers itself as the best bet for growth and investment if you know how to use it. It is like there is a huge scope to make money with it if you know where the water is and how much, ONLY if you know that. And we are not talking merely about water-service companies or water- related equipment manufacturing  companies but all other sector players that depend to a large extend on water to run their machines and manufacturing processes.   Global giants have realised this late, or rather have been slow in taking an initiative in spotting the availability of water in various regions and continents for the mutual interest of their bottom lines.

Global giants like Coca-Cola, Goldman Sachs, Skoll Global Threats Fund, Dow, Bloomberg and Tallisman Energy are funding World Resource Institute’s (WRI) project Aqueduct that measures and maps water risk. The global map data is supplied by Coca Cola, the company directly involved in water products.  A team of experts specialised in various areas of financial management of resources are handling the project funded by these corporations. “The risk maps generated by the Atlas will help companies understand the intricacies of water risk, and in turn manage their exposure to such risk,” says the WRI website.

The tool enables one to explore the quantity as well as quality (with respect to purity) of water in some of the biggest basins of the world. As of now, they have included the Murray Darling, Yellow River and Orange-Senqu River basins on the map. But the intriguing feature of the map is that it allows local communities to add information as the team believes that information obtained from people working on the grassroots is more accurate than researchers working in laboratories. So in reality, it is the corporations roping in social workers and governments for the benefit of their business. The Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs is indeed a funder of the project.

While these organisations have attempted to align profit-making with safe and responsible management of water, critics are arguing users would not necessarily use the tool responsibly. There are high chances of other organisations exploiting the availability of large amount of water and playing short-term irresponsible bets. Lori Pottinger, an Africa campaigner at International Rivers NGO told Reuters, “The risk is that the concerns of local people are left behind in the rush to secure access to water and reduce risk for companies.” This would not be good for companies themselves are it would be just a few players hogging all the economic benefits of the financial tool.

The other drawback of the water risk atlas at the moment is that it is incomplete. Aqueduct is still adding more basins to it and relies on communities to make the database as detailed as possible. The efficiency of the tool, if utilized morally by financial corporations, depends on the accuracy of data provided by major corporations like Coca-Cola (information has to be updated from the time it was recorded) and the communities working at the grass root level.

You can use the tool by clicking here. Refer to instructions on the youtube video below  if needed.

– Mitali

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