The concept of Water Neutrality, based on its carbon equivalent, was first coined during the World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002. Since then the term has been loosely used, with little quantitative validation. Here we define the term ‘water neutrality’ to imply a voluntary process whereby participants seek to quantitatively balance their water use accounts by both reducing their water usage and investing in projects which increase supplies of clean freshwater. Water neutrality therefore implies balancing the demand and supply of water through a deliberate intervention by the water user.
The WWF Water Neutral Scheme
The WWF Water Neutral Scheme is a partnership between civil society, through WWF South Africa, and government, through its Working for Water Programme that allows water users to quantitatively balance their water use account.
To harness private sector commitment for the security and wise-management of South Africa’s scarce water resources, by reducing water demand and investing in the security of our water supplies.
Participants are encouraged to become water neutral through a three step process
(known as R3) of:
1 Review: Participants are required to undertake a detailed water audit to accurately measure their operational water usage. The results of this audit, known as the company’s ‘water deficit’, need to be publicly available to promote transparency and open dialogue.
2 Reduce: In partnership with WWF South Africa, corporations are required to develop and implement an ambitious, but realistic, time-bound water reduction and efficiency strategy.
3 Replenish: Corporations are then required to invest in projects that will make available ‘new’ water into freshwater ecosystems, equal to their ‘water deficit’ (i.e. the net outcome of Steps 1 and 2). While we believe that there may be numerous projects that could quantitatively deliver ‘new’ clean water, as a start, we have concentrated our efforts on the quantification of water made available through the removal of invasive alien plants. The large amount of data available on the topic through the current and historic experiences of the Working for Water Programme made this an obvious first choice. To facilitate the calculation of how investments need to be made for a given corporation to become Water Neutral, we have developed a ‘Water Neutral Calculator’.
The Water Neutral Calculator
The Water Neutral Calculator determines the investments that a company needs to make to become water neutral through the removal of invasive alien plants. The calculator is based on two principal input values:
• The average amount of water ‘replenished’ through the clearing of a hectare of invasive alien plants and maintaining it in a rehabilitated state; and
• The average cost of clearing a hectare of invasive alien plants and maintaining it in a rehabilitated state.
The amount of hectares of invasive alien trees that a water user would need to finance to be cleared to become water neutral, is therefore calculated by dividing the water user’s ‘water deficit’ by the average amount of water replenished through the clearing of a hectare of invasive alien trees (2 540m3/year). Water users may choose how they wish to structure their water offsets over the first 10 years of the minimum 20-year investment period. Annual payments are then calculated using a matrix model constructed in Microsoft Excel.
Professor Kader Asmal, founding father of the Working for Water Programme and previous Minister of Water Affairs and Forestry, is the patron of the scheme. The scheme has therefore made an auspicious start to an ambitious undertaking.
Source: WWF Water Neutral Scheme
The WWF Water Neutrality is a similar to the Carbon Neutral concept. Individuals can implement similar water saving exercises in their homes by recycling grey water and/or harvesting rainwater. Professor Kader Asmal (Former Minister of Water Affairs and Forestry, South Africa) practices what he preaches and is a happy Water Rhapsody client (see our high profile customers, scroll down).