World Water Day 2017 – Transforming the Way the World Uses Water

| Josh Henretig

Tomorrow is World Water Day, and in honor of that day, we want to recognize all that water does for us that we don’t usually see. Much of the world’s water is hard at work in the production and delivery of nearly all goods and services, from apples to zippers. And the amount of water needed to make products is only going to increase, with manufacturing expected to use 400 percent more water from 2000 to 2050.

Where is all of this water coming from? Do we have enough? And once it’s used, what happens to those gallons of water?

Increasingly, businesses are realizing they need better answers to these questions, both for their own operations and to be better stewards of this precious resource for citizens around the globe. We want to help answer these questions, and we think that data can play an important role in transforming the way big business uses water to create a more sustainable future. That’s why today, in partnership with Ecolab and Trucost, we launched the Water Risk Monetizer tool in New York City.

Businesses around the world understand that insufficient access to clean water can significantly disrupt business operations and growth. There’s also a wide appreciation for the growing amount of risk, as the UN predicts that global demand for water will outstrip our existing supply by 40 percent by 2040. And yet there is still a very real gap between this knowledge and deploying solutions. We suspect this is a data problem, and it needed a data-based solution – that’s the Water Risk Monetizer.

Water Risk Monetizer 2017

Free, global, and built on the Azure Cloud, the Water Risk Monetizer (WRM) is industry’s first publicly available water risk analysis and financial modeling tool that translates water scarcity risks into financial terms, and enables businesses to factor current and future water risks into decision making.

The WRM provides more data to build the business case for acting on water. Right now, companies understand what they pay for water. But this price doesn’t include the real cost of water, and as a result, water remains significantly undervalued in much of the world. This disconnect makes it hard to make the business case to invest in effective water reduction strategies, or to optimize where to locate or expand operations.

A compelling business case requires data to understand and explain the value of water, as well as relative risks as water becomes scarcer. Businesses need data to help them understand how they use water, what risks they face based on that consumption, and to craft better strategies to reduce, reuse and recycle the water they use around the world.  In this new version of the WRM, users now get a new level of enterprise risk by ranking facilities based on risk level, plotting facilities on a risk versus likelihood continuum, and assigning action plans for facilities based on risk probability. And the WRM now provides businesses insight into their water-related reputational risk factors.

Armed with these insights, professionals can better inform decision making, develop locally relevant plans and drive investment in water saving measures – thereby benefitting the business and the communities where they operate.

A case in point: How Microsoft is using the Water Risk Monetizer And Ecolab technologies

We are leveraging the enhanced WRM to prioritize locations and optimize water management projects; gain a new level of insights into site selection and design/engineering considerations; and understand the true cost of water and the ROI of different water management strategies, including capital investments in new technologies to make our operations more efficient.

We’re also using the WRM tool in specific pilot locations to take a deeper dive into particular areas of risk for us. We used the tool to assess the risk of our  datacenter near San Antonio, TX. San Antonio is located within the Leon Creek Watershed, which is considered a high water-stress region, according to the World Resources Institute’s Water Risk Atlas.

The data insights we gained through the tool were impressive. The WRM output showed that the risk adjusted water bill, representing the full value of water to Microsoft’s operations, is more than 11 times greater than the current water bill presented by the San Antonio Water System. Armed with this data, we worked with Nalco, an Ecolab company, to develop a strategy where we now use recycled water and their technology. This allows us to save more than $140,000 in water costs per year, while also avoiding the use of 58.3 million gallons of potable water per year.

Looking forward to World Water Day 2018

We’re proud to be partnering with Ecolab and Trucost to help companies tackle global water challenges in a way that is good for business, communities, and the environment. At Microsoft, we believe in the sustainable management of water resources, and safeguarding fresh water in the communities where we operate. Through these commitments and cloud-based technologies, like IoT, machine learning and predictive analytics, we believe we can drive great progress on the digital transformation of water. This transformation will help make the business case for smarter water management – and this has the potential to change the world.


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