Performance measures provide essential
feedback that enable companies to identify opportunities
for reducing water use and impacts. Industry experience
highlights several important considerations for firms
seeking to track water-related performance.
Meter water inputs and outputs.
Water use-related metrics depend on accurate information
about the volume of water flowing in and out of the
company's operations, whether facility or agricultural
fields. While water and sewerage utility bills often
contain useful water consumption data, actual metering
of water use may be needed to track consumption and
effluent that are not covered by utility services. Numerous
companies report that metering water use for key processes
provides valuable data for discovering leaks and targeting
Define water metric terms clearly.
As discussed in Module 1
and in the DuPont case
study, companies must determine the most appropriate
approach for defining water use or water consumption,
given the nature of their operations. Most firms with
water metrics track total water use, which is typically
measured in gallons or liters per day or year. Normalizing
water use data with revenues, production levels, or
numbers of employees often provides for clearer comparisons
across facilities or over time. Intel Corporation and
other firms have found value in tracking wastewater
reuse, both in total gallons and percent reuse.(1)
Consider both operational metrics
and environmental condition metrics. While companies
increasingly track operational metrics for water use
and discharges, significantly fewer track outcomes -
environmental conditions in local waters. A recent study
by the U.S. National Academy of Engineering suggests
that such environmental condition metrics will become
increasingly important as global and business focus
on sustainability intensifies.(2)
Environmental condition metrics include dissolved oxygen
content, concentration of specific contaminants, and
turbidity in receiving surface and ground waters.(3)
Additional resources are listed below
which can be helpful for identifying appropriate performance
indicators related to water use and impacts.
Reporting Initiative (GRI)
GRI's website (http://www.globalreporting.org)
provides useful information for companies regarding
sustainability performance indicators and reporting.
In 2002, the GRI released a draft Water Protocol that
provides detailed information and guidance to guide
companies' assessments, measurements, and reporting
on water uses and impacts.
National Academy of Engineering. 1999.
Industrial Environmental Performance Metrics: Challenges
and Opportunities. Washington, DC: National Academy
GEMI. 1997. Measuring
Environmental Performance: A Primer and Survey of Metrics
in Use. Washington, DC.
to Module 5