The Evolution of Water Stewardship

Australia’s remarkable role in initiating and building a new system for protecting one of the world’s most precious resources, water, has been outlined in a new publication by the Australian Water Partnership.

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Published: 1 September 2018

The Evolution of Water Stewardship: An Australian Perspective tells the story of a concept catalysed by Australia’s Millennium Drought that developed into a global system for managing water risks and engaging business, government and community – embraced by some of the world’s biggest companies. It details how the concerns of a handful of people in Melbourne in 2006 ultimately evolved into the Global Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS).

Published by the Australian Water Partnership, it was launched at the World Water Week in Stockholm on 27 August by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s Michael Wilson: “For us it pressed two important buttons; [water stewardship] promoted new collaborative approaches to the planet’s escalating water challenges, and it brought in new players to addressing those water challenges, particularly the private sector.”

Other speakers included Alexis Morgan from the World Wildlife Fund, Jason Morrison, head of the United Nations Global Compact’s CEO Water Mandate, and Karin Krchnak from the World Bank 2030 Water Resources Group, who were each instrumental in upscaling water stewardship into a global initiative.

“When [The Nature Conservancy] started our efforts looking at the use of standards and certification as a potential tool for addressing water risks in North America, we were thrilled to discover the efforts of Water Stewardship Australia, which helped to propel us further and faster and create a common agenda globally rather than having competing regional interests,” said Karin Krchnak, formerly of The Nature Conservancy, one of the three founding organisations of the global AWS.

The story includes a surprising rejection of viewing water as a Corporate Social Responsibility issue by the world’s leading alcohol manufacturer and reveals the extensive engagement of Apple in water conservation in China, along with AWS’s contribution to improved water practices in China’s industrial parks. It details the active role the Australian government has taken promoting water stewardship across the Indo-Pacific region.

The Evolution of Water Stewardship also includes acknowledgement from the fashion industry that it needs to lift its game on water use and pollution, and documents initiatives being undertaken with water stewardship in Asia to address these issues throughout the fashion supply chain.

The publication also profiles the work of water stewards large and small, from global giant Nestlé to Peninsula Fresh Organics, a small organic vegetable farm on the Mornington Peninsula.

Cracked river bed in South Australia
Cracked river bed in South Australia. Image by Kwest / Adobe Stock.
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