Skip to main content
Home » Water » A blueprint for water stewardship
Future of Water 2021

A blueprint for water stewardship

iStock / Getty Images Plus / DragonImages

Scott McCready

Director of Outreach & Engagement, Alliance for Water Stewardship

Agriculture accounts for 70% of freshwater use worldwide.1By 2035, it is predicted that up to 40% of the world’s population will live in seriously water stressed areas. Many of these are significant agriculture sourcing hotspots, feeding global markets.

Good land management practices, championed by corporate sustainability strategies, NGO initiatives and agricultural standards have stimulated progress on sustainable water use. But good practices by one water user, such as a farm, can be easily eclipsed by poor practices of another within the same catchment.

Water-related challenges, from access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) in communities to protecting wetlands and vulnerable ecosystems, need multi-stakeholder solutions. Water users must therefore work together for the benefit for all: this is called ‘water stewardship’. 

Water users must work together for the benefit for all: this is called ‘water stewardship’.

Understanding water stewardship

Stewardship involves looking beyond the fence-line, into the wider landscape, talking to others who share your water source and who face similar challenges and working with them to find solutions, locally and globally. This takes bold leadership and willingness to collaborate.

In agriculture, for example, the German food retailer EDEKA is taking an innovative approach to assessing and responding to water risk in their fresh produce supply chains. When they find suppliers in high water risk locations, they work with them to implement water stewardship through the Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS) Standard.

By 20502, we will require an estimated 50% increase in agricultural production and a 15% increase in water withdrawals to meet our basic needs. We have reached the tipping point for water sustainability. The agricultural sector must now step up and join together to tackle the global water challenge.

[1] Gleick,P.H et al. (2014). The World’s Water: The Biennial Report on Freshwater Resources. Washington, DC: Island Press). Available online.
[2] World Development Indicators online.

Next article