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Water is one of the world’s most powerful weapons against climate change. Without it, we would have no natural protection such as wetlands, mangroves and peatlands to protect us from flooding and erosion or capture carbon emissions. We can all do our bit to better manage water and support this year’s World Water Day. Here are five top ways to help:

1. Calculate your water footprint

Knowing the true environmental impact of an organization’s use of water is the first step in improving it. ISO 14046, Environmental management – Water footprint – Principles, requirements and guidelines, is the world’s first internationally agreed method for determining your organization’s water efficiency. It covers everything from the quantity, quality and location of water to changes in water due to land use or other activities. It also helps organizations identify opportunities to reduce potential water-related impacts associated with products at various stages in their life cycle as well as processes to become more water-efficient. The result is not only reliable data that can be used in environmental reports worldwide, but a method to ensure continual improvement.

2. Manage your water efficiently

Climate change, increased populations and water-intensive methods in manufacturing and farming are all putting huge pressure on our water supply, thus we have no choice but to be more efficient with the water we have.

According to the United Nations, over the last hundred years, the use of water worldwide has increased twice as much as the global population: this means that seven hundred million people risk being displaced due to lack of water by 2030.

Knowing how much water we use, where and how, as well as having effective strategies in place to minimize consumption and maximize efficiencies, is the key objective of a water efficiency management system.

ISO 46001Water efficiency management systems – Requirements with guidance for use, aims to help organizations of all sizes and status be more water-efficient. Through a clear framework and guidance on water efficiency management, it provides methods and tools for assessing and accounting for water usage, as well as ways to identify and implement measures to optimize water use and continually improve ways of doing so. 

COVID-19: Be safe

Hand hygiene is essential to containing the spread of COVID-19 and many other infectious diseases. On World Water Day, and every day, remember to wash your hands regularly. Find out more about the World Health Organization’s guidelines on hand hygiene here.

Close-up of a woman's hands washing at the bathroom sink.

3. Reuse wastewater in irrigation

Agriculture is a thirsty business, and increased populations mean even more water is used to irrigate crops. But there is another way. Reusing wastewater is a surefire method of easing the pressure on limited water supplies and improving an organization’s water footprint. It can also provide a lifeline for agricultural communities where water is scarce.

Treated wastewater can be used for land reclamation, improving agricultural growth and reducing fertilization costs. An environmentally productive use of treated wastewater can also prevent ecological damage to water sources.

The four-part series ISO 16075, Guidelines for treated wastewater use for irrigation projects, is a key tool for the agriculture industry. It contains guidelines for the development and execution of treated wastewater projects, including design, materials, construction and performance, and covers a wide range of issues such as water quality, types of crops that can be irrigated, associated risks and main components (e.g. pipeline networks and reservoirs).

The standards in this series are currently being revised to make them even more effective and relevant to industry, with the new versions due out later this year.

4. Solutions for sewers (where there aren’t any)

Many people around the world rely on basic on-site sanitation systems like outhouses and latrines. On-site systems, where the wastewater treatment is done locally rather than off site (i.e. in a sewage system), can be a hygienic low-cost solution if it is implemented correctly and the waste is disposed of safely. Yet in too many places, these systems are poorly made or just don’t exist and local streams, rivers, seas and plants are polluted as a result.

ISO 24521Activities relating to drinking water and wastewater services – Guidelines for the management of basic on-site domestic wastewater services, aims to change this situation by offering practical guidance on the management and maintenance of basic on-site domestic wastewater services. The result is cleaner sanitation facilities and improved health for people and the environment.

5. Turning waste into water

Complementing ISO 24521 is a new technology that can not only treat human waste in a clean and environmentally friendly way but turn it into useful resources such as clean drinking water. ISO 31800, Faecal sludge treatment units – Energy-independent, prefabricated, community-scale, resource recovery units – Safety and performance requirements, specifies requirements and test methods to ensure the performance and safety of units that can serve up to a hundred thousand people. Developed by an ISO expert committee in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, it is due to be published this year.

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Clare Naden
Clare Naden

+41 22 749 0474

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