Blog post

ICT and Water Footprinting

By Simon Mingay | April 19, 2010 | 0 Comments

This news item from the BBC related to the UK’s global water front caught my eye this morning.

Water footprints are different to carbon footprints for a number of reasons. With carbon/GHG emissions it’s the balance between carbon input vs that output in a process/cycle, and a tonne of carbon produced in the UK is the same as a tonne in the US. With water the absolute footprint can be deceptive in that a high water footprint may or may not be bad and likewise for a low footprint. It depends on a number of factors including, where and when that water is used, the source of that water (lake, river, reservoir, precipitation, grey water etc.) and of course any water contamination or temperature change that occurs in the process.

The graphic in this news item rightly highlights the incredible water footprint of some of the everyday items we consume. But having the number itself is not very helpful on its own.  To give an ICT angle, although I have not seen a recent number for a PC/monitor, for the purposes of understanding the order of magnitude, it used to be around 1500 litres

There is very little doubt that water is going to be one of the most stressed resources we have to manage over the next few decades. And exactly like carbon, ICT has a dual role to play. From the low-carbon and environmental ICT vendor assessment we are about to publish it is clear that while there are some shining lights in the industry in terms of managing water, its an area the industry could get a lot  better at.

ICT is already playing an important role in managing water resources, and that role will get more critical. Particularly in understanding, analysing and managing the water impact of the enterprise supply chain. While transparency (no pun intended) around water use will impact enterprises with a significant supply chain most, it will touch every organization. As a number of soft drinks companies know, there is significant reputational risk involved here.   If you are not already tracking water consumption in your enterprise and starting to understand where the big water issues are in your supply chain, and taking appropriate commensurate measures then now would be a good time to start.

Although the BBC news items relates to a country and the footprint is calculated at a very macro level, this will cascade down to the enterprise level and will increasingly demand a more granular perspective. So within the IT organization, make sure the information and process architecture will support water management, and take every opportunity to start building that in. Because if you have not been asked already to produce water data related to your own operations and increasingly related to the supply chain, then you will soon.

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