New Program, New Partnership with Alliance for Water Stewardship
We are pleased to announce the launch of Blue Water Farms, a River Alliance program that will certify water stewardship on agricultural operations in Wisconsin. For our pilot effort, we’ll be working with dairy farms and dairy processing facilities, with a support team of staff from the Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS)—a global membership-based organization that promotes the responsible use of freshwater, whose North American headquarters are in Milwaukee. We’ve also brought on an expert consultant in environmental aspects of dairy facility management. This program will provide a mechanism for recognizing—and certifying—farm operations who are exhibiting exemplary stewardship by water.
The AWS organization and their AWS International Water Stewardship Standard (“AWS Standard”) is a critical component of this effort that we’d like to share with you. The AWS Standard is a globally-applicable strategic framework for major water users to understand their water use and impacts, and to work collaboratively and transparently for sustainable water management within a given watershed. It is the world’s only comprehensive water use standard and helps agricultural, industrial and commercial water users identify and mitigate their water-related risks.
Here’s how it works. Similar to a LEED green building certification, the AWS Standard is a process standard, not a product standard (such as one that would be affixed with a certified label). It provides water stewards with a six-step continual improvement framework that enables sites to commit to, understand, plan, implement, evaluate and communicate water stewardship actions.
Upon successful implementation of the AWS Standard at a given site, one or more of the four outcomes of water stewardship will be achieved: good water quality, sustainable water balance, good water governance and protection of important water-related areas. Sites that implement the AWS Standard can seek independent conformity assessment from an AWS-accredited auditor. The rigor of the third-party audits ensure sites are credibly implementing the AWS Standard and appropriately making AWS-related water stewardship claims about their company.
“In the two years since the official launch of the AWS Standard System, we’ve seen tremendous growth in the use of our standard and in our membership ranks. Some of the world’s largest water users as well as the world’s leading water stewardship experts and practitioners are working together under the AWS banner to ensure our freshwater resources are sustainable now and into the future,” said Matt Howard, North American Director for AWS. “Blue Water Farms is an exciting opportunity to apply the AWS Standard at the farm level. Companies that are implementing the AWS Standard are gaining a competitive advantage by optimizing water use but also ensuring that those water resources are secure and sustainable for all water users in a given watershed.”
Via our Blue Water Farms program, River Alliance will work to support AWS-accredited farms and facilities, increasing the visibility and exposure of the business and management systems that they will have implemented, to provide new and relevant approaches to water stewardship. We’ll also use our policy advocacy communications infrastructure to provide opportunities for consumer advocacy in support of this program, and the farms and facilities that are a part of it.
We welcome your comments or questions on this topic. Please contact Matt Krueger, River Restoration Director by email at [email protected] or by phone at 608-257-2424 x125.