River basins form the basis for the European Water Framework Directive (WFD) of 2000. The German Federal Ministry of Environment stated "...it is necessary to develop an integrated water policy in the Community."
Based on the WFD, the European Water Partnership (EWP), a non-governmental organization supported by the EU and private sponsors, developed a standard for the European Water Stewardship (EWS), which details and focusses on the effects of land uses and water management of industries in the river basin. The standard was launched in the beginning of 2013.
Above - European Water Stewardship logo in gold
Water stress in European River Basins (source: http://www.eea.europa.eu )
EWS is a voluntary system for assessing, communicating and certification of sustainable water management. It was developed for all responsible water managers, especially in the private industry, agriculture, and public or private water users and provides competitive advantages. The certification is being carried out by international certifiers such as Control Union, NFS, TÜV Nord etc. Certificates are in bronze, silver or gold!
EWS is based on four principles, which describe the impact of industrial operations and production facilities on the environment within the river basin or sub basin.
The four principles are:
- Sustainable water abstraction
Which is meant to measure, record and display the extracted amounts of water and discharged waste water and to provide transparency to the public.
- Good water status
Considered are the quality of the abstracted water and in particular the quality of wastewater.
- Areas of high conservation value
Areas that would directly respond to an altered water balance, e.g. wetlands.
- Equitable water governance
Considers the water management system.
What are the advantages of EWS?
- EWS reduces the environmental, social and economic impact of your business
- EWS secures the natural resources and long-term availability of water as part of your production
- EWS reveals critical points and risks of the operation of your water management
- EWS increases the efficiency of water use and its economic benefits
- EWS increases public acceptance of production sites and business units
- EWS creates a competitive advantage for companies
- EWS supports the communication with investors, with subsidies, with customers and other stakeholders in the supply chain
How does EWS work with other water management instruments?
The water stewardship concept corresponds with other water management instruments. Source vulnerability assessments and water footprint calculations both help to understand the water use within the given hydrogeological system. ISO 14001 or EMAS provide a tool for environmental management and in a limited context also for water management. There might be other, plant specific internal regulations and water saving programs. Water stewardship is a complete modern water management system and includes those components missing from other water management tools. It clearly defines the risks a production activity poses on the environment within the river basin in a transparent way. Figure 1 below shows how water management should work.
All such water management tools have been developed for reducing risks for potential impacts on the production or the environment.
And what is the role of HPC?
HPC is the first German environmental consultant, which has been listed by EWP as "recommended consultant" to prepare water users such as production plants and industrial facilities for the certification. HPC had helped during the development of the EWS standard and participated in pilot studies. HPC has of course also completed appropriate training courses.
HPC has been engaged in EWS from the beginning and is now the company in Germany with the most experience. We have successfully carried out so-called pre- screenings at eight sites in Europe, which prepare the plants for certification.
We maintain a good working relationship with the EWS - developers in Brussels in order to incorporate our experience in updates of the EWS standard.
For those companies that have numerous sites worldwide, where pre-screenings may be too complex and expensive, HPC has developed a tool, which allows water managers to determine the EWS status of their operation themselves. In order to enable the water managers to use the tool, we offer web-based training.
Water stewardship in the water management context
EWP is spearheading the development of water stewardship in Europe. The Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS), the global pendant to EWP, is following suit with a global standard along the lines of the European water stewardship model. INOGEN is already there! For an integrated water policy in a global context.
- Dirk Muenstermann