Advancing Water Risk Assessment Beyond the Standard Tools

As regions around the world face growing water risks—including scarcity, pollution, and catastrophic weather events—companies are recognizing the need to assess their own water risks.

With climate change acting as a “threat multiplier” and exacerbating water stress, it is critical that companies understand the water-related risks facing their business, according to Stefanie Woodward, WSP USA environmental project consultant, in an article for the Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark (GRESB).

Water risk can be grouped into three categories:
• physical risks, which stem from having too little water, too much water or water that is unfit for use;
• regulatory risks, which occur because of changing, ineffective, poorly implemented or inconsistent water policies; and
• reputational risks, which stem from changes in how stakeholders view a companies’ real or perceived negative impacts on the quantity and quality of water resources, the health and well being of workers, aquatic ecosystems and communities.

WSP recently evaluated water risks for a client operating in a region with scarce water resources. The firm conducted initial screening of potential water-related risks, and then augmented these assessments with onsite evaluations. WSP also surveyed site personnel and researched local legislative, infrastructure and water basin conditions.

Stefanie Woodward

Stefanie Woodward

The assessment included local water policy and the regulatory impact of recent drought conditions, as well as the client’s operations, training, performance measurement and communications strategies. WSP delivered suggestions for optimizing water management and planning practices within the organization, as well as provided concrete facility-level actions to reduce local water withdrawals.

Many tools are available to assess water risk. In her article, Woodward identifies three tools that provide a starting point for companies to identify hotspots within its operations and supply chain to help them gain valuable insight into the underlying water risks they face.

But the risk assessment process often does not end there. Companies want to know what the risks are at their facilities and how to mitigate these risks once identified. By going beyond standard risk assessment tools, WSP helped its client characterize the water-related risks for its operations and make specific recommendations to help mitigate those risks.

Read the full article on the GRESB website.

GRESB is an international organization that assesses the sustainability performance of real estate and infrastructure portfolios and assets worldwide.

[To subscribe to Insights, contact the editorial staff at]

Related Publications