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WWF/SABMiller report – tackling water scarcity together

9 September 2010

Global water shortages will affect everyone – and will only be solved by environmental groups, businesses, governments and local communities all working together. That’s the vision of the latest report to come from our Water Futures Partnership with brewing giant SABMiller.

Water Futures report

The new report from WWF, SABMiller and German development agency GTZ is called Working together for a secure water future. It highlights both the environmental and business risks of water scarcity in many countries – and how it will need a collaborative approach to manage the long-term problems.

The report examines the different ‘water footprints’ of SABMiller’s products in places like Peru, Tanzania, Ukraine and South Africa, showing clearly how the problems differ in each location, and also how they might be addressed.

Did you know, for instance, that it takes a total of 180 litres of water to produce one litre of beer in Tanzania, while in Peru the total is 61 litres? Only a small percentage of the water (3-10%) is used in the actual brewing process. More than 90% is swallowed up at the crop-growing stage – and the figures also include things like labelling, distribution and even recycling of bottles and cans.

It’s an eye-opening reminder of the ‘hidden’ water used in many industries. And the report makes it clear that water scarcity issues are getting worse in many countries because of pollution and, increasingly, climate change. These are big problems that call for concerted global action.

The good news, as the report reveals, is that we’ve already started the process in all the countries mentioned. Workshops have been held with NGOs, government representatives, local businesses and others stakeholders to begin developing detailed ‘watershed protection’ programmes based on the risks assessed in this work.

We recognise this is just the first step in a longer process, but the more we work together, the greater the benefits for all concerned. It’s the way the theory is translated into practice that will make a change in the communities that really need it.

We hope the Water Futures Partnership will inspire other businesses, governments and organisations to take action on this urgent issue – not just to protect local communities and ecosystems, but to secure global water supplies.

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Man in fishing boat, Caneneia Estuary, Brazil

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