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Tracking Water Performance
Metering and Metrics

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 conservation activities.

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

Additional resources are listed below which can be helpful for identifying appropriate performance indicators related to water use and impacts.

Global Reporting Initiative (GRI)

GRI's website ( 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 Press.

GEMI. 1997. Measuring Environmental Performance: A Primer and Survey of Metrics in Use. Washington, DC.


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