Close up of drops of water on leaves

Reducing water stress

Restoring habitats, protecting soils, increasing carbon storage, conserving water, reducing pollution and protecting against flooding

The issues

In many of the world’s food and drink growing regions, a stable supply of good-quality water can no longer be relied upon. Investors and customers increasingly expect companies to respond and adapt to risks posed by water scarcity in order to improve food security.


Agricultural supply chains use 70% of global freshwater resources. UN projections are that global demand for fresh water will exceed supply by 40% by 2030.


Size of financial hit taken by companies due to water challenges in 2018 alone, according to the World Economic Forum's 2019 Global Risk report.

Water use in food and drink

Water pressures disproportionally affect the food and drink sector because of the importance of water for agriculture. Climate change will increase pressures on farmers, with more unpredictable weather and the disruption faced from both water scarcity and flooding.

Security of supply in this context is a real commercial – and national – concern for the UK food and drink sector. Suppliers need the means to become more resilient to water pressures. This can mitigate future risks – but also have positive effects. For example, it is estimated that better water management could boost crop production by 20% globally.

There are also wider risks and opportunities. Food and drink businesses share their water needs with communities and wildlife. Food and drink businesses are exposed when their supply chains are linked to practices that negatively affect these water resources. Examples include the spotlight placed on avocado production in Chile, and asparagus production in Peru, and free-range egg production in the UK.

However there are simple, nature-based solutions that can be implemented for multiple benefits: to restore habitats,  protect soils, increase carbon storage, conserve water, reduce pollution and protect against flooding.  This is a win-win for all.

What can my organisation do?


WWF have defined a framework to guide businesses towards being a good water steward and reducing exposure to water risks.

What is WRAP doing?

To help businesses take the right steps, we have produced a checklist which outlines the actions to take, as well as links to further sources of guidance and support tools. Download the checklist here.

Courtauld 2025 Water Ambition

Aims to achieve the following by 2025:
1. Business signatories are monitoring water use in their own operations and have improved efficiency.
2. Business signatories are participating in collective action to improve the quality and availability of water in key sourcing areas.

Find out more

Collective action projects

A framework of collective action projects has been established to reduce water stress in key food and drink production areas in the UK and overseas.

Find out more

Water Ambition progress

Working together to protect critical water resources - The Courtauld Commitment 2025 Water Ambition progress report.

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Strategic partners

WRAP and Courtauld 2025's work in reducing water stress is made possible by the close collaboration of the following strategic partners:

The Rivers Trust