In 20 years' time, water availability will be 40% below where it needs to be to support a growing global population. That is the stark warning from the 2030 Water Resources Group. So what should the average UK business do to address these risks and develop a sustainable water strategy?

It is important that food processors understand these impacts, because retailers, consumers and governments are challenging large food suppliers to use their leadership, supply chain power, know-how and resources to drive real sustainability improvements across the whole product life-cycle, from farm to fork. Businesses like yours are under pressure to be more accountable for their environmental impact to ensure the continued support of financiers and stakeholders.

Given the reports of flooding that periodically dominate the headlines, it is easy to regard water shortages as an overseas issue, but according to the Environment Agency, water resources are already under pressure in many parts of England and Wales.

Figures from the agency suggest about 25 million people in England live in areas where there is less water available per person than Spain or Morocco, and the situation is expected to worsen. By 2020, demand for water in the UK could rise by 5% or 800m litres a day.

As with carbon, the degree to which firms are developing more sustainable approaches to water use varies by industry sector. For example, food and drinks firms, such as Nestlé and Pepsi, are already taking steps to improve their water use credentials, but many other industries have little understanding of how water shortages could affect their businesses. So think, save and manage; you know it makes sense.

John Roberts can be contacted on reaphltd@yahoo.co.uk