Insurance giant says global water scarcity is a risk multiplier

Insurer Zurich has counselled businesses to manage and conserve water activelyin a “deep dive” report on water scarcity allied to its Global Risk Report 2017.

The company, which worked with the Atlantic Council to explore environmental risks around the world, found water scarcity to be a “bigger problem than previously thought”. This applied geographically, with Zurich noting “it’s not just an issue for dry areas” and in terms of the knock-on consequences. The report found water scarcity to be “a risk multiplier”, with the chances of civil conflict higher following periods of drought, as well as impacts on food supplies, health and education.

It quoted the World Bank as believing water scarcity could cost up to 6% of GDP by 2050 unless measures are taken to alleviate it. Moreover, it pointed out that lower income countries are more vulnerable as they have less freedom to invest in infrastructure and often lack of good governance, but that high income countries also face severe water stress.

Zurich identifed potential risks to business as:

  • rising costs, reduced supply

  • business interruptions

  • mandatory restrictions

  • possible need to relocate

  • lost jobs and lost customers

  • reputational damage.

It advised a best practice water management strategy featuring:

  • Make a commitment to water stewardship and appoint a champion from senior management, both on-site and company-wide.

  • Build alliances with all regional stakeholders to coordinate, collaborate and share good water governance practices and sustainable water balance plans for the region.

  • Identify critical water-intensive processes and assess on-site water utilisation. Consider a water accounting programme, including installation of water meters.

  • Implement a water management and conservation plan.

  • Consider business-specific opportunities to recycle, reclaim, reuse and reduce water consumption.