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Globally, the world already faces a water crisis, with increasing competition to access freshwater resources of declining quantity and quality. This crisis is anticipated to be further exacerbated by climate change.

Creating water resilience at the basin scale will require coordination, transparency, and alignment of common goals among all stakeholders: public, private, and civil society. A precursor to achieving this is having a common understanding and means of measuring and communicating water-related information. Currently, there is no single common water accounting framework that exists, and that can be used across sectors to evaluate key water metrics associated with use and availability.

BHP is collaborating with the CEO Water Mandate (Mandate), the World Resources Institute (WRI), the Pacific Institute and other key stakeholders to develop a simple common water accounting framework (CWAF). The framework will be developed by engaging key stakeholders, incorporating their common practices where available, and developing a shared understanding where differences occur so that it can be applied by all water users, water managers, and decision-makers, in all water contexts, and at all water scales. The project, which commenced in FY2019, comprises three phases: a landscape study; framework development and pilot testing; and implementation and outreach. Technical and stakeholder engagement is undertaken in parallel to these.

The landscape study, which was completed in FY2019, identified the existing water accounting frameworks, guides, and initiatives and provided details on the potential for harmonisation with both private and public stakeholders. From this work, an initial, high-level outline of a CWFA has been developed. The framework aims to provide overarching catchment accounting guidance with potential users broadly categorised in four groups: private sector, public sector, agriculture, and utilities. The framework will also include detailed guidance on four key elements of water accounting: establishing an overarching objective and sector specific objectives; accounting water flows (inflows and outflows); how to address both quantity and quality; and boundary setting (in both time and space).

Next steps for the project include the establishment of a key stakeholders’ advisory group, development of basin resilience metrics to support the framework, and the selection of pilot testing locations. The project is due to be completed at the end of CY2022.

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