Water mismanagement can be perceived in multiple ways, unavailability of water, or difficulty in access to water. This may be due to failure of institutions to ensure a regular supply or due to a lack of adequate infrastructure. Water use has been growing globally at more than twice the rate of population growth in the last century, and an increasing number of regions are reaching the limit at which water services can be sustainably delivered, especially in arid regions.
Water shortage is expected to worsen as rapidly growing urban areas place heavy pressure on neighboring water resources. A change of climate and bioenergy demand is also expected to amplify the complex relationship between global development and water demand. As per United Nations, there is no global water shortage as such, but countries and regions individually need to tackle the critical problems presented by water stress on immediate basis. Water must be treated as a resource which is depletable and diminishing and which needs a far stronger focus on managing its demand.
Currently more than 90 percent of the fresh water in Pakistan is used in the agriculture sector, which makes up 18 percent of Pakistan’s GDP. Bad agriculture choices, flood irrigation, a lack of hybrid seeding, and poor water management are putting a heavy burden on water resources. There are several issues with water management, including a lack of basin-wise water resource management and no proper system to stop evaporation and pilferage 40 percent of water is lost.
Water is a shared resource that requires collective action and every stakeholder’s ownership to help tackle its mismanagement. It is difficult to single out any one sector’s role or separate the interests of the public and private sectors from each other. The government should align water usage with the needs and demands of different users, i.e., agriculture, industry, household, etc., adopting the integrated water resources management. Similarly, the industries or businesses should also do their part not only because of the opportunities associated with water conservation but to gauge the understanding of the benefits of shared water management.
Responsible businesses in Pakistan realize the essence of being water stewards not only because of their survival but for the overall wellbeing of the global ecosystems and economies. For example, country’s top-notch multinationals are helping conserve water by; improving water use efficiency in its direct agricultural supply chain and manufacturing operations, replenishing water for communities, and adopting water stewardship to ensure on-site water efficiency.
Similarly, Nestlé Pakistan realizes the importance of working beyond its factory gates and taking collective action with other partners like the government, communities, farmers, civil society, and academia. Water has been a key focus of the company’s decades-long legacy. Building on its existing strong water stewardship foundation, it introduced a new commitment called the “Water Pledge” in August 2021, which is water business-specific.
With this Pledge, the company aims to capture more water than what its water business uses in its operations throughout the local watersheds. It aims to do this by taking collective action with local communities, farmers in the value chain, and experts in water resource management. Using this approach, Nestlé Pakistan has forged partnerships over the years on the issue of water.
The Nestlé Caring for Water-Pakistan is a blueprint of such work. Launched in 2017, it is an initiative for bringing different partners together to discuss what should be done in order to contribute to improved water usage and tackle water mismanagement.
The world over, about 70 percent of water is used in agriculture sector. In Pakistan, that percentage stands at more than 90 percent, with 50 percent wastage due to poor irrigation methods. To help farmers improve their water management and reduce their water use through innovation and technology, Nestlé has partnered with the Punjab Agriculture Department to encourage local farmers to take up drip irrigation. Until 2021, it has an estimated water saving of about 207,465 m3 by installing drip irrigation on 198 acres.
Similarly, Nestlé has developed smart soil moisture sensors that read the moisture level of the soil and send regular data updates to a cloud from where the farmer receives information about which areas he should irrigate and how much. It has partnered with Lahore University of Management Sciences to develop a software and a mobile app that enables the farmers and the researchers to see the soil moisture level remotely on their computer screen and mobile phone, respectively. This helps save water and increase productivity by reducing the chance of under or over-irrigation. By 2021, Nestlé has helped save 161,033 m3 of water by installing soil moisture sensors on 455 acres of land.
While the industrial sector accounts only for 1 percent of the water withdrawal in Pakistan, there is massive attention being paid to improving in-house efficiencies when it comes to water use. Nestlé Pakistan, as a responsible business, strives to have a positive impact on society through introducing responsible business techniques in terms of its operations and nearby communities. It is the only company in Pakistan that has certified all its sites by the Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS) Standard. AWS is an international standard for freshwater resources that guides organizations to manage water by taking on-site and catchment initiatives through stakeholder inclusive processes.
Company’s programs to improve efficiencies, recycle and reuse water has enabled it to reduce water consumption per ton of product by 23 percent between 2013 and 2021. In similar efforts, Nestlé has established six Safe and Clean Drinking Water Facilities providing access to clean drinking water to 60,000 people every day.
The corporate sector has an important role to play to address the growing water mismanagement. Companies are increasingly becoming aware of the need of sustainable use of watersheds and accessibility of water to the communities. However, the water issues must be handled mutually as it poses a threat to not only the businesses but all of us collectively.