Water & Climate

Alliance for Water Stewardship / Water & Climate


Water is the medium through which climate change impacts are felt the most. Climate change is intensifying the water cycle, making extreme weather events such as droughts and floods more likely and more severe with each degree of global warming.

Roughly half of the world’s population is experiencing water scarcity for at least part of the year, while about two billion people don’t have adequate access to safe drinking water. These numbers are expected to increase, exacerbated by climate change and population growth.

The good news is that water can also play a prominent role in climate change mitigation and adaptation. Water-related actions, such as protecting and restoring wetlands, peatlands and freshwater ecosystems are ‘win-win’ nature-based solutions, bringing multiple benefits in biodiversity, climate resilience and sustainability.  At a broader level, water can serve as a connector across industries and sectors, and between global agendas.


Stewardship is about working collaboratively to conserve a finite resource that we do not own but that we all depend on.

For businesses, water stewardship means thinking beyond the fence line and working with others to understand the wider, longer-term impacts of their water use and taking appropriate action.

Water stewardship considers the ‘bigger picture’ of water use – how consumption in one place can have an impact on communities and ecosystems elsewhere. It is also context-specific, meaning water-related actions are tailored to the local environment. There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution.

Collective action and convergence are key to a climate-resilient future. Water stewardship is for the greater good, but it also makes commercial sense. It can help to protect business continuity, ensuring that operations and supply chains become more resilient.

The concept of water stewardship is becoming increasingly recognised by industry leaders and global decision-makers. At the landmark United Nations 2023 Water Conference, an energised and committed water stewardship community shared years of collective experience and resources to help companies understand how to better address their water use and impacts. This momentum for water stewardship continues to grow.


The Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS) exists to tackle the urgent global challenges driven by water insecurity. Our mission is to ignite and nurture global and local leadership in credible water stewardship that recognises and secures freshwater’s social, cultural, environmental and economic value.

Learn more about AWS by reading our Strategy 2022-2030: Accelerating Impact.


AWS is two mutually supportive things:

1. A sustainability standard system

  • The International Water Stewardship Standard (AWS Standard) is a globally applicable framework for major water users to understand, measure and advance their water stewardship performance.
  • Built on a five-step process that guides water users to consider the most critical water impacts (see diagram).
  • Driven by five outcomes: good water governance; sustainable water balance; good water quality status; important water-related areas (IWRAs) and water, sanitation and hygiene for all (WASH).
  • Developed to implement on any site or within any catchment, sector or geography.
  • Underpinned by third-party certification to enable sites to make credible claims on their water stewardship performance.
  • Fully compliant with ISEAL, the global alliance for credible standard systems.

2. A multi-stakeholder membership-based alliance

AWS and its members support the adoption and promotion of the AWS Standard. Our collaborative network works hand-in-hand towards the same goals: using water stewardship to protect the shared water resources we all rely on.

We support action on two levels:

  • Global: We raise awareness and driver water user engagement worldwide.
  • Local: We build capacity and momentum by connecting AWS-implementing sites with stakeholders and activities.


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