ISO 46001 Water efficiency management systems -- Requirements with guidance for use

ISO 46001 Water efficiency management systems -- Requirements with guidance for use

ByMong Ni Lee


ISO 46001:2019 is the first Requirements Standard developed by ISO TC 224, to which organizations can receive certification as a water efficiency management organization.  It parallels ISO 14001 – Environmental Management and 50001 - Energy Efficiency Management, and is an increasingly important standard as we move to the UN’s sustainable goals and objectives. Both water services and their customers can demonstrate their efficient use of water both in the provision of water or in the use of water to demonstrate their contributions to water sustainability.

Why develop an ISO standard relating to water efficiency?

Water is one of the world’s essential resources. Escalating demand for water and changes in the climate are increasing pressure on the world’s water supply.

The UN recognises the importance of taking an integrated approach to freshwater management as part of its Sustainable Development Goal 6: Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all. Water efficiency is one component of that approach, noted in Target 6.4: By 2030, substantially increase water-use efficiency across all sectors and ensure sustainable withdrawals and supply of freshwater to address water scarcity and substantially reduce the number of people suffering from water scarcity.

The challenge is encouraging organizations to begin implementing water efficiency measures. The ISO Kobe Workshop on Water held on 25-26 July 2012 and the ISO Technical Management Board’s Implementation Task Force on Water identified the need for an ISO standard relating to water efficiency.

ISO 46001 provides methods and tools to enable organizations to assess and account for their water usage, and to identify, plan and implement measures to optimize water use through the systematic management of water. ISO 46001supports UN Sustainable Goal 6 by facilitating sustainable water management practices and improving water efficiency in all sectors thus helping to alleviate water scarcity.

Who can use the ISO 46001?

Similar to the other management systems standard, the standard is applicable to small, medium, and large organizations that use or consume water. The proposed standard is flexible and can be adapted to a wide range of organizations, irrespective of size, sector, structure, geography, or jurisdiction.

What can ISO 46001 do for my business?

ISO 46001, Water efficiency management systems – Requirements with guidance for use, offers a single, clear framework for all organizations wishing to improve their water efficiency performance.

It includes a series of processes that enables the staff with various responsibilities across an organization to use data to assess and account for water usage, and to identify, plan and implement measures to improve water efficiency performance.

It will provide organizations a proven approach to develop a water efficiency management plan addressing critical aspects of water efficiency performance—including water use, measurement, documentation, reporting, procurement practices, and other variables affecting water efficiency management that can be measured and monitored.

What are the benefits for my business?

The standard will provide the following benefits:

  1. By setting out management requirements, the standard will help organizations create transparency and facilitate communication on the management of water resources and the implementation of water efficient measures in accordance with an internationally recognized minimum standard.
  1. If adopted and implemented by an organization, the standard will help the organization demonstrate that it is taking measures to optimize water use, as evidence of its commitment to the principles of social responsibility.
  1. It will be an internationally agreed standard allowing both internal and external assurance for the implementation of water efficient measures.
  1. ISO 46001 is based on the high levels structure (HLS) for ISO management systems standards and therefore allows integration with other organizational management systems such as energy efficiency (ISO 50001), and health and safety (ISO 45001).

If an organization implements ISO 46001, is certification mandatory?

No. Certification to a management system standard is not a requirement. Organizations can benefit from implementing the standard without being certified to them. Certification can be a useful tool to add credibility, by demonstrating that you have achieved full compliance with a specific standard.

Like the decision to implement the Standard, pursuit of certification is a decision made by the organization.

For further information about ISO 46001 development, please refer to the ISO Website.