Risky Business – Is Water on your Risk List?

Water running out of tap

It is not any secret that business and risk go hand in hand. Threats such as IT security, data theft and critical infrastructure blackouts are unfortunately not new to the South African business owner, and are set to be on the rise in 2021. However, there is one element that is so fundamental to the survival of our businesses that we often fail even to think of it as a risky business! 

It encompasses all three main risk factors – namely business interruption, climate change and changes to legislation – and without it, entire industries are crippled, labour forces suffer, and ultimately bottom lines evaporate. And that is water. 

Business leaders plan to avert the biggest risks that could impact their companies, but as COO of Abeco Tanks, Mannie Ramos Jnr observes that water is rarely on the risk list.

After a tumultuous 2020 proved how fundamental being able to wash our hands is to our health, it is clear that water would be on our risk list for 2021 if businesses are to successfully safeguard their futures. 

Water is also innately and intricately intertwined with another risk factor, and that is infrastructure. “As South African businesses owners you would be hard-pressed not to recognize the shortcomings of our electrical infrastructure as demonstrated by load shedding,” says Ramos Jnr. “When faced with this problem, companies have rightly invested in generators or solar power.” 

Water, however, is more problematic because we cannot simply make it, as we do by burning fuel to create electricity in the case of a generator. So, what about when we run out of water? How can we ensure continuity of service and plan for these eventualities when there is a water outage?

Here are the top considerations for your risk list:

Water-sparing is not water saving

When you save water, you are only really using less water not saving it. Whilst being conscious of water scarcity and making improvements such as waterwise taps, rain harvesting tanks or eco-friendly toilets is good, being conscious about wastage doesn’t help the problem of water interruption. If there is no water, then your business is out of water until it rains again to fill the dams. 

Businesses must plan to have infrastructure in place to be able to build up a reserve of water. Any business worth its salt knows that saving up your hard-earned business profits to reinvest in the business is crucial, and so is the case with water. By having tanks with stored water you can safeguard against future shortages. 

New builds and properties

Prevention is always better than the cure and Mannie urges all architects and designers to consider water and its role in businesses when creating new buildings. All new builds should allow for rainwater harvesting and consider a tank to siphon water off the roof easily or catch rainwater to be diverted to flush toilets, water gardens and even provide water for animals. Although rainwater is not potable (not safe for human consumption) it has the potential to drastically decrease running costs and prevent potential interruption of business in the case of extended drought. 

Plan to use water sparing devices

Modifying your premises to have stop-start taps, faucet aerators and water-saving toilets will all help to decrease the amount of water you need. 

Inspect your infrastructure

Routinely checking your plumbing for leaks will make sure you are not using water unnecessarily. Additionally, checking your water sprinklers regularly is not only pivotal to not wasting water, but to the safety of your employees as some municipal pipes have such low water pressure that if a fire were to break out, the pressure from the pipe would be too little to extinguish the fire.  

Know how much water you need

Before you can install adequate water tanks to save the water you need, you need to know how much water in total your business needs to be optimally operational. You also need to determine how long your business can operate with reduced water supplies and remain profitable if you are to calculate properly the amount you need to store. 

What is the cost to your business daily if there is no water? 

Working out the daily cost will help you to determine the size of the risk running out of water poses to you – which can be a great guiding factor when budgeting for water storage tanks. Knowing this will enable you to weigh the cost of a water storage tank, the installation and the maintenance versus the potential financial loss not having one will cause.     

A water storage tank provides a business with the surety that they will be able to continue should a drought become critical. The water in these tanks must be used, as water can become stagnant if not kept moving. So not only can the tank help in crisis situations, but businesses can use the water from the tank for the daily operations and simply top it up with municipal water when it is necessary.  

It is strange when you put it into perspective how little attention we pay to water considering how essential it is to our livelihood. Water scarcity is a global issue and yet we still do very little to plan for a future without this resource. As individuals, companies, manufacturers, and farmers it has become clear that the Government cannot provide us with all the water we so desperately need without our help.  

Water will have to be on the risk agenda in 2021, not only to ensure our health but to safeguard our businesses from the negative impact of business interruption. And though it may seem like a drop in the ocean, installing a water tank will help safeguard against drought. This is an essential move, as according to UNESCO, 1.6 billion of us will live in water scarce areas by 2025. We are left with little choice but to take our future into our own hands. 

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