Years ago, I joined colleagues from various organizations and sectors to dream up ways we could move companies and utilities to better manage water resources. We envisioned a standard that would motivate private- and public-sector companies to be effective water stewards. From those conversations the Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS) was born.
Today, AWS launches its Standard—a global framework to promote sustainable freshwater use. And I’m as giddy as a proud parent.
Why water stewardship matters
Water is absolutely critical for the survival of all species. When we think about conserving freshwater habitats—like rivers, lakes, streams and wetlands—we tend to think of saving river dolphins and fish. But all species depend on water: elephants, tigers, pandas, and people too.
We depend on water for health, food, recreation and much more. We fish and play in rivers. All our businesses are water-dependent in one way or another. Cities and towns use utilities to provide us with clean, safe water, and to treat and dispose of wastewater.
Because we all draw our water from the same source (usually a nearby river or underground aquifer), what any one user does impacts all the others. If one user takes too much, there might not be enough left for others who need it, like business, people and species. If wastewater isn’t treated properly, we can all fall sick. Public entities try to manage shared water resources, but in reality, it will take coordination amongst all of us: governments, companies, NGOs, the academic community.
AWS and its standard will help drive this coordination globally, but also in regions and—most importantly—in river basins. It will make water stewardship something that’s real and not just a concept. That’s why we at WWF are so excited to see it launch.
A future for fresh water
WWF has been a key organization in taking AWS from its birth to its launch as a full-fledged membership organization, as well as a leader in developing the AWS Standard. We believe it will transform water resource management at the basin level. So in the places that we really care about—from the Mesoamerican Reef to the Yangtze River—we will see companies and other water users working on their own water management as well as working together.
This way, each and every water user becomes a better water steward, and together they become a better water stewardship community. In that end, that’s how we’ll ensure fresh water is responsibly and sustainable shared by people and nature.
AWS has achieved a lot in a relatively little time. We know there’s much more to come. We are proud of our history with AWS, and of being a founding member. Together, we can change the way we manage fresh water.
Karin Krchnak is WWF's Director, Freshwater Program