What is water stewardship?

water stewardship

Water stewardship acts as a means to evaluate your water use and impacts. It entails assessing your water use and making best practice changes. Water stewardship is all about comprehending your water use and managing and using water in a way that respects the planet and society. 

For businesses, water is both a risk and an opportunity. Without it, businesses will fail. However, at the same time, they are uniquely positioned to champion innovative solutions to freshwater challenges. By prioritising water stewardship, companies can contribute to their sustainability goals, ensuring long-term viability and a positive corporate legacy. Keep reading as we dive further into water stewardship and why you should implement it as a cornerstone of your business sustainability strategy.

What is meant by water stewardship? 

Water stewardship refers to the responsible planning and management of water. It is defined as using water in a way that is socially just, economically viable, and environmentally sound. Water stewardship is achieved through a stakeholder-inclusive process that consists of catchment and site-based actions. 

Those who are deemed good water stewards comprehend their own water use, catchment context, and shared risk concerning water balance, water governance, water quality, and crucial water-related areas. This knowledge enables water stewards to take collective and individual action to benefit both people and nature. 

The business case for water stewardship 

Water stewardship is good for the planet and people, and there is a strong business case for more equitable and environmentally friendly water practices. Similarly, there is a strong business case for organisations to better comprehend and manage their water risks and likewise seize any related opportunities. 

By implementing water stewardship, businesses can partner with better suppliers, build more resilient operations, save costs, and promote workplace productivity. The adoption of green buildings is a testament to this approach, as such structures are designed to minimise the consumption of water, energy, and other resources, thereby reducing pollution and enhancing operational efficiency. Furthermore, sustainable clothing brands are taking significant strides in reducing carbon dioxide and greenhouse gas emissions by utilising biodegradable components from recycled or natural fibres, which consume less water and energy, and require no chemical treatment. This conscientious approach not only helps protect their licence to operate but also strengthens brand value, contributing to a more resilient and robust business model. It’s a strategy that extends beyond environmental stewardship; it’s about fortifying businesses to be more sustainable and stronger in the long run.

Water stewardship actions surround reducing pollution, enhancing water efficiency, supporting good public water governance, and encouraging suppliers and others to improve water performance. It is also important to keep in mind that our global water challenges are a driver of business risk around the world and across a range of sectors.

The CPD’s 2017 Global Water Report, which featured over 2000 reporting businesses, found that 60 percent face water-related risks, while 56 percent expect those to materialise over the next six years. Additionally, the 2015 UN World Water Development Report shares that global water demand is predicted to rise by 55 percent by 2050. If current trends continue, we will only have 60 percent of the freshwater required worldwide by 2030. 

Businesses that do not address their water risks in a meaningful fashion will ultimately be left in a fix. They will put themselves at risk of operational and supplier disruptions, loss of legal or social licence to operate, higher operational costs, brand damage, heightened absenteeism amongst workers, and diminished investment. Therefore, managing risk is the most common reason businesses are implementing corporate water stewardship. 


Water is a shared resource, and we can only manage it sustainably if we work together. Businesses at all levels of government, as well as local communities, must work together to ensure that water is shared and managed appropriately. 

Businesses can become corporate water stewards and lead collective action, reaping the benefits for people, the planet, and their businesses. Learn how to lead a more responsible company with our business sustainability courses designed to help you start your sustainability journey today. 

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