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.

The Courtauld Commitment

The Courtauld Commitment is WRAP's flagship voluntary agreement for food and drink. The new Courtauld Commitment 2030 has the following target for water:

As well as businesses continuing to increase water use efficiency in their own operations, our combined objective is that, by 2030, the UK food & drink industry will have helped to achieve sustainable water management to improve the quality and availability of water at catchment scale in the top 20 most important product & ingredient sourcing areas in the UK and overseas.

With an overall target by 2030 that: 50% of fresh food is sourced from areas with sustainable water management.

Interested in joining the Courtauld Commitment? Contact the team.


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 Commitment Water Ambition

This has seen food and drink businesses act within their own operations to improve water efficiency, and – crucially - work together in key sourcing areas to help safeguard this critical resource.

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 Water Ambition progress report.

Find out more

Strategic partners

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

The Rivers Trust


To join the Courtauld Commitment contact our team.