Water Paradigms: Out with the Old, In with the New

Recently I received the book Corporate Water Strategies by Will Sarni. (Thanks Will!)One of the many contributions of the book is a reframing of “old” and “new” paradigms regarding our relationship(s) with water.  If we are to tackle water (and sanitation) challenges successfully in the future, we have to redefine and reassess what sustainable water access, use and management mean.I thought long and hard about what I wanted to add to Will’s paradigm comparisons.  Ultimately I decided that the  basic framework is enough of a great start to stand alone.  Each paradigm shift rings clear today and will do only moreso over time.Perhaps I will dive deeper into each of the sub-topics below in future posts.  For now though, let’s dive into the basics (as presented in the book):


Old Paradigm

New Paradigm


Water is a global issue with global solutions All water issues are local, and the watershed is the building block


Water is like carbon Water is unique


Water is reliable through public infrastructure systems Companies can no longer solely rely on public water sources


Water is priced according to value The value of water far exceeds its price


Direct water use is the only thing that matters in managing water risk Water use in the value chain is typically much greater than direct water use


Water risk can be managed internally Water risk can be managed effectively only with stakeholder input


Water scarcity is only about managing risk Water is a significant business opportunity

It’s time to embrace the new: paradigms, ways of thinking, ways of governing the commons, and ways of doing business.  Corporations, this especially means you.  There has never been a greater challenge, nor a more incredible, unprecedented opportunity to effect sustainable change.