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Water risk can take many forms. Physical risks like pollution or water scarcity are often the ones people are most aware of, but there are also risks to business if regulations change, or to a company's reputation if they are associated with water quality or scarcity problems that impact of the local environment of communities.

With these risks in mind, WWF-UK conducted research to explore how much of what the UK imports is under threat because of water risks to its operations or supply chains. This research found almost half of the UKs imports come from countries where there are 'hot spots' of water risk.

Many businesses don't assess their water risk, let alone mitigate against them. But some do, by taking proactive action to lessen the risk through better stewardship of water.

One of the case studies of good practise on water stewardship cited in the report is SABMiller. David Grant, SABMiller's Water Risk and Partnerships Manager said:

Once we understood our risks in detail, we moved to engage with others across a number of river basins where we operate. We were able to make a much stronger business case for action within SABMiller using detailed local assessments, and quantifying the risk exposure to our facilities.

"I imagine that many other businesses would find the same once they have the right information in front of them. I'd encourage businesses to understand the risks, and then move to minimize them, and their impact on the freshwater environment."

About 40 per cent's worth of everything we import in the UK comes from countries that have hot spots of high water risk, with some industries such as textiles more exposed than others. Many everyday products - from the drinks we buy to the medicines we use, and from the clothes we wear to the food we eat - could be affected by water-related issues.

Closer to home, latest Environment Agency figures show that just 17 per cent of England's rivers are in good ecological health - and a third of the pressures causing failure are attributed to agricultural impacts, closely associated with the production of food and drink.

Lucy Lee, WWF-UK's Water Stewardship manager explained that "businesses must wake up to their exposure to water related risks, and also realise the potential benefits of assessing and responding to them. UK plc has an important role to play in safeguarding the rivers, lakes and aquifers which are under threat and which provide the water for people, nature and business."

Managing water is now recognised as one of the key challenges of the 21st century, with the World Economic Forum 2015 Global Risk Report ranking water crises as the top risk to the global economy, rising from third position in 2014.

If you work in an area that would benefit from understanding water risk more, you can read the full report via the link on the right. You can also take a closer look at our risks map via the second link
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