Water is becoming a scarce commodity in many parts of the world. The reasons are diverse, with climate change a key driver. Other major factors include human consumption and the growth of water-intensive methods in manufacturing and farming. According to the United Nations, over the last hundred years, the use of water worldwide has increased by twice as much as the global population, meaning that seven hundred million people could be displaced due to a lack of water by 20302).

Because we can’t produce more, the only solution is to be more efficient with what we’ve got.

The recently published ISO 46001, Water efficiency management systems – Requirements with guidance for use, aims to help organizations of all sizes and status be more water-efficient.

Through a clear framework and guidance on water efficiency management, ISO 46001 provides methods and tools for assessing and accounting for water usage, as well as ways to identify and implement measures to optimize water use. In this way, users of the standard will contribute directly to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal SDG 6 (Clean Water and Sanitation), which seeks to “ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all”. It specifically addresses Target 6.4: “By 2030, substantially increase water-use efficiency across all sectors and ensure sustainable withdrawals and supply of freshwater to address water scarcity and substantially reduce the number of people suffering from water scarcity.”

ISO 46001 was inspired by work done to develop a national standard in Singapore, one of the first of its kind in the world to help organizations benefit from the use of a water efficiency management system.

Ms Wai Cheng Wong, Chief Engineer in the Water Supply Network department of PUB, Singapore’s national water agency, is Convenor of the ISO working group that developed ISO 46001 and also worked on Singapore standard SS 577. She comments: “As one of the most water-stressed countries in the world, managing industrial water use has been a priority for Singapore, given that the bulk of our water demand comes from the non-domestic sector, which is expected to increase further. Therefore, we strongly believe that ISO 46001 will be an important tool for all organizations around the world to bring about greater water efficiency and savings in their operations.”

ISO 46001 was developed by working group WG 12, Water efficiency management, of ISO technical committee ISO/TC 224, Service activities relating to drinking water supply, wastewater and stormwater systems, the secretariat of which is held by AFNOR, ISO’s member for France.

By Clare Naden