LONDON: More than half of cotton crop is grown in regions with high water risks, according to the WWF International. The expanded Water Risk Filter, started in 2012, now covers 122 commodities from almonds to cocoa and sugar and the countries where they are grown and shows historical instances of drought, pollution and “water footprint” in each area. Climate change, population growth, rising food demand and changing consumption patterns are increasing pressure on freshwater resources, according to WWF.
“Cotton is one of the thirstiest crops, it requires a lot of water and it’s one of the most polluting crops given the high demand for fertilizers and pesticides,” Jochem Verberne, head of corporate relations at WWF International, said by phone on Friday from Amsterdam. “The pollution of the Aral Sea in the former Soviet Union is almost entirely due to irrigation needs for cotton production in the surrounding countries.” Global cotton output grew by 50 per cent in the past 20 years, data from the US Department of Agriculture showed. China is the largest producer followed by India and the US. About 40 per cent of the world’s population lives in river basins that experience severe water scarcity during at least one month of the year and 780 million people lack access to safe drinking water, according to WWF. Some 2.5 billion people lack access to basic sanitation services, it said
Ranking System WWF’s risk filter generates a score from 1 to 5 based on the physical, regulatory and reputational risk related to water in basins around the world. The higher the score, the bigger the risk. It was developed in collaboration with the German development finance institution DEG and is free online.
“A lot of companies are picking water up as the next big environmental issue but have difficulties understanding the complexity of the topic,” Verberne said. “This tool tries to explain that as well; and not only have the water risk assessment and the mapping in place but also the mitigation responses, what you can do about the specific types of risk. That’s a great starting point for companies to take actions.” The WWF’s comments come a day before the UN sponsored World Water Day that this year highlights the interplay between water and energy.