What is AWS?
The Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS) is a global organization made up of members from leading businesses, non-profits, public sector agencies and academic institutions with the collective goal of promoting responsible use of freshwater that is socially, economically and environmentally beneficial to all.
To this end, members have developed the AWS International Water Stewardship Standard (AWS Standard), designed to help companies and other water users implement responsible practices that mitigate water risks (e.g., water scarcity), improve efficiency, and address shared water challenges (e.g., drought, population growth, etc.).
Achieving AWS certification is a rigorous process that includes a series of actions, criteria, and indicators for how to manage water both at the factory level, as well as outside the boundaries of a site.
What sets AWS apart from other environmental standards?
The AWS Standard is the first-ever comprehensive global standard for measuring responsible water stewardship across social, environmental, and economic criteria. These factors span geographical and socioeconomic lines, such as the impact upon disadvantaged communities with difficulties accessing water; environmental quality at water-related locations like marshes; and whether water is being managed in a way that provides a positive economic benefit.
This means that a facility is not just assessed based on its water use and efficiency within its four walls, but on how operators are engaging with other water users and stakeholders around the facility. These relationships determine shared water challenges and water-related risks, encouraging opportunities for collaboration toward responsible and sustainable water management.
For instance, during the most recent certification process for the Nestlé Waters factory in Sacramento, California, auditors looked at the plant’s impact within the entire 734,000-acre South American Groundwater Subbasin. This involved meeting with the local water department, offering plant tours to increase public education, implementing tools to increase water efficiency and conservation, and partnering with community foundations on cleanups and charitable events.
The AWS Standard also has the unique benefit of being created and supported by prominent environmental conservation groups, development organizations, and industry leaders, such as CDP, The Nature Conservancy, The Pacific Institute, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
What are some factors auditors require from a factory in order to meet the AWS standard?
The AWS Standard assesses a site across four key areas:
- Good Water Governance: the effective and responsible management of water resources
- Sustainable Water Balance: managing water use to ensure the rate and quantity of water withdrawal does not outpace the natural replenishment of the source
- Good Water Quality: taking steps to preserve, and even improve, the quality of available water resources
- Healthy Status of Important Water-Related Areas: Identifying and protecting areas of the watershed that are critical to the health and sustainability of local water resources
One of the most important factors auditors consider is a plant's wastewater system, which can have an impact on water usage throughout a watershed where a factory is located. AWS evaluates conditions upstream from a factory, where the water is sourced, as well as downstream, where runoff from the factory flows. For instance, our bottling plants in Sacramento and Ontario have implemented a number of conservation techniques encouraged by the Standard, including reverse osmosis to better filter and reuse wastewater.
Further, the AWS process encourages factories to incorporate the feedback of other water users in the region into Nestlé Waters’ operations. The concerns of key stakeholders – such as water treatment plants in the regions where our factories are located – are factored into the way we operate our business. Taking the needs and ideas of our neighbors into account allows us to find new ways of saving water while encouraging collaboration to meet the goals of the AWS Standard.
What is the AWS Certification Process?
To obtain certification, a facility must follow the six-step process depicted below:
What are the benefits of AWS certification?
AWS certification allows a facility to demonstrate its commitment to water stewardship while helping others in the region collaborate on best practices in water conservation. AWS-certified factories use advanced water-saving measures which help to ensure a smaller footprint in the watershed. An AWS-certified facility is also able to track its stewardship efforts, and is involved in communicating and coordinating with other stakeholders in the watershed to meet shared conservation goals. Taken together, these steps foster better community engagement, costs savings at the plants, and increased water availability at the source.
To date, how many sites have been AWS certified globally? In how many countries?
Only eight sites in the world in seven different countries have achieved AWS certification. Of those, two are Nestlé Waters facilities, and Nestlé Waters is the only beverage company in the world to have factories that are AWS certified.About Nestlé Waters and AWS
Why is Nestlé Waters committing to AWS certification? Why now?
As the nation’s leading bottled water company, we have a vested interest in the long-term sustainability of our water resources. Not only because our business depends on it, but because access to clean, safe water – for drinking, sanitation, and hygiene – is a fundamental human right. At Nestlé Waters, we have a very special responsibility to not only operate sustainably, but to help solve our collective water issues.
Achieving AWS certification is an important step in our commitment to preserving and protecting our water resources. It ensures that we are meeting the highest standard in caring for water at the source and in our operations. Doing so also ensures we have a rigorous process in place for continuous improvement.
Water is the ultimate shared resource, and can only be protected by working together. We recognize the urgency of our shared water issues and realize the tremendous impact businesses – working together with governments, local communities, and others – can have. It is therefore important to drive adoption of the AWS Standard by other companies and organizations worldwide. We want to see AWS become the recognized standard for improving global water stewardship.
In North America, California was selected as the first location for AWS certification because of the shared water challenges in the state, including the recent five-year drought. We are on track to achieve our goal of certifying our Hope, British Columbia, and all five of our California water bottling facilities by the end of 2017.
How much water have you saved in your factories that have so far received AWS certification?
At our Sacramento and Ontario plants, implementing the AWS Standard is projected to generate a combined savings of more than 17 million gallons of water annually. This is a result of a number of conservation techniques encouraged by the Standard, including reverse osmosis to better filter and reuse wastewater, advanced water mapping to manage more carefully the flow of water in and out of the plants, and xeriscaping – landscaping that reduces the need for supplemental water from irrigation – on the grounds of our local factories.
What benefits have you seen?
The AWS Standard has a strong stakeholder engagement component, and as a result of the additional external outreach we did as part of the certification process, we found new stakeholders to speak to, and discovered new challenges and opportunities in our area.
For example, in Ontario, California, we were seeing the same cleanup issues year to year in our local watershed. We were able to use the AWS process as an opportunity to reach out to the upstream producers of the litter debris to educate them and develop solutions to manage the issue, which we hope will result in significantly less pollution ending up in our shared waterways.
Additionally, the AWS Standard has given us cause to interact with our partners downstream. Until recently, we focused more heavily on the impact of our operations upstream – balancing our water withdrawal with the natural replenishment of the source. Now, as part of the AWS process, we have started to take a closer look at our impact downstream, and are positively engaging with wastewater organizations in ways we had not done previously.
How long did it take to implement/complete the process of AWS certification?
Preparing our first two California sites (Ontario and Sacramento) for certification included an estimated 150 hours of meetings with various community stakeholders in each region. Three auditors then spent two days examining each plant in order to certify them.
How many criteria/indicators do auditors assess at each facility?
An AWS assessment measures water stewardship across a core set of 30 criteria. Among these factors are development of a conservation policy; identification of water challenges at a site; the implementation of water-saving techniques and procedures; improving water quality at the site where it originates; and notification of water conservation efforts to local stakeholders. The entire auditing program is available to view at http://a4ws.org/certification.