The principle of decoupling provides an alternative to the type economic growth that is coupled with unsustainable depletion of natural resources. But finding solutions that will be effective at achieving economic growth without environmental degradation requires good data; thus, it is necessary to develop frameworks for quantifying water use and assessing the distributional needs of societies. This report brings that challenge to the forefront, critically examining many of the methodologies available for quantifying water use and environmental impact. It concludes that is in fact possible, given existing tools and methods, to include water in all major economic and social considerations. These assessments will rely on open data, transparency, and equitable dialog among stakeholders.
- Water registers entail partitioning a water resource into "pools" of differing allocation priorities and distributing entitlements to access water of each pool among users or user groups. With good data, this can make it possible to create a market for transferring water rights in a way that is fair and efficient, while keeping a cap on aggregate water withdrawals.
- Most economic agents record their water use, but these accounts are incomplete and cannot be compared and aggregated. Comprehensive water accounting frameworks can demonstrate to governments and decision makers how water is linked to the economy and human well-being.
- Water scarcity indicators like the water footprint can be especially helpful in raising awareness of the role of food and agriculture production and consumption in water issues.
- Industries should use life cycle assessments as a benchmarking tool for their water use and sustainability.
- Corporate monitoring of water can be better quantified through water stewardship.