Water use, such as depletion, consumption, and withdrawal, is a separate topic to water pollution and discharge.
⚠️ Therefore, the topic of wastewater is only relevant if the analysis is dealing with how the wastewater is polluting water supplies and harming ecosystems and biodiversity or entering water bodies that humans drink from.
Do not treat these two impacts in one analysis.
The volume of water discharged alone is insufficient to assess the impact of wastewater. It is not relevant unless there is some negative impact.
The analysis should assess where and how much the company is responsible for the pollution of local water bodies.
- What impact does this pollution have?
- How is the local ecosystem affected?
Avoid writing a list of one example after the other. Rather, focus on the most recent year in which you can find 1-2 significant examples of this occurring and then look at the historical trend over time.
- Is this a recurring issue?
- Has the company's behavior changed in regards to this? If yes, then there is no current impact.
- What is the big picture?
The introduction should discuss the issue of water pollution and how the industry (in which the company is in) is contributing to this overall problem. Include absolute values when possible and ensure the information is recent and relevant.
For example: if the topic is on an agricultural company causing algal blooms, then the introduction should focus on the harm of algal blooms on aquatic ecosystems and how many algal blooms are documented around the world and out of this, how much the agricultural industry is responsible for it.
In the core analysis, we need the following information:
- Analyse which contaminants were discharged (substance/type).
- How much water pollution is caused by the company? This should be above legal safety limits.
- How and why this is occurring?
- Where the pollution came from and where it went.
- What are the resulting impacts? What are the environmental consequences or the illnesses contracted if ingested/used?
When assessing a company’s responsibility for polluting a local water body (especially large-scale ones in which multiple companies are involved), it is imperative that you show the facts and figures to prove such links and estimates on how responsible the specific company is.
Examples of evidence include court rulings, scientific reports, company reports, violations/fines, etc.
What is also helpful is to provide information on how responsible the industry is for water pollution as well as providing the market share of the company in that given industry. This in turn shows how large and influential the company is in regards to this issue.
To show that a company is linked, here is an example of Tyson foods:
Tyson Foods, the largest meat company in the United States, has captured over 20% of the market share in chicken, beef and pork 2;p5. Tyson has been linked to disproportionately contributing to the growing size of the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico each year for three reasons:
- Tyson is the only meat company with major processing facilities in each of the states that have contributed the highest levels of pollution to the Gulf.
- Tyson is one of two companies whose meat facilities have the highest documented levels of nitrate contamination.
- Tyson's top feed suppliers are those clearing the majority of the grassland prairies, removing a natural filter between US farmlands and the Gulf.
When assessing the impact on the aquatic ecosystem, here is some information to include:
- The decline of a local species population and/or other indicators of biodiversity loss.
- The change in living organisms' behavior or growth.
- Scientific claims if the location is considered a “dead zone”, “contaminated” or any other scientific assessments, lab work, and research.
The analysis can only be published if the wastewater disposed of includes concentration levels of chemicals/substances that exceed the maximum authorised level of a given country.
Remember to describe the scale of the impact by taking into account:
1/ The breadth of the impact
Is the impact local, national, or global?
How many water bodies/ areas are concerned?
2/ The depth of the impact
Is the water source profoundly affected, or does the issue just marginally impact them?
Are the changes brought by the issue profoundly changing society or the planet?
3/ The persistence of the impact
Help readers rate the company’s impact by linking studies to the chemical/element discharged by the company and making comparisons with competitors and industry average, when relevant.
To increase the robustness, it is valuable to know:
- Whether or not the wastewater was treated.
- If so, then how much of it was treated?
- Evaluate whether the number of pollutants in the wastewater discharged is above or below safe levels of the given areas. Even if the chemical concentration is below safe levels or below the maximum allowed emission of pollutants, the analysis should still be treated as a negative one.