Identify and Characterize Water Impacts
- In what ways does the organization impact
surfacewater and/or groundwater through activities at each
stage of the value chain?
It may be useful to think of water impacts
in two main arenas. First, water impacts may be associated
with water discharges. Examples of water discharges include
water released from a facility wastewater treatment plant,
stormwater run-off from company property, and cooling water
returned to a nearby waterway. In many cases, water uses identified
in Step 1 will have associated water discharges if the water
is not completely consumed by the use. Second, water impacts
can result from business activities that do not directly relate
to water use, but involve other materials potentially impacting
the quality of water sources. For example, air deposition
can affect the quality of surfacewaters. Leaching of materials
and chemicals can impact the quality of groundwater aquifers.
Spills or leaking tanks can impact surface and groundwater
Identify Water Impacts
In certain stages of the value
chain, such as process/production, direct
water impacts will often be easy to identify because they
involve activities that are likely to be regulated by government
agencies. At each end of the value chain, however, direct
and indirect impacts may be less obvious. Using several different
approaches will help to identify hidden water impacts. For
water discharges, be sure to consider all the ways that water
quality can be changed by an activity. In looking for possible
impacts arising from contact with raw materials, production
intermediates or finished product, consider all of the materials
used in your companys supply chain as potential sources.
Then, consider the value chain. Use it as a lens to focus
a systematic search for water-related impacts. For example,
customers may require water to use, clean, or maintain a companys
products or services. Key water impacts should be identified
in this step. Tool users should consider potential impacts,
and not just those that may occur routinely.
Characterize Water Impacts
Tool users need to collect sufficient information about key
water uses to identify associated opportunities and risks
(see Modules 2 and 3).
The following elements should be considered in characterizing
each water impact: the type of impact, the amount of water
affected, the quality of the water discharged or impacted,
the location of impact, the magnitude of impact, potential
affects on ecosystems, and potential affects on public health,
society, and culture.