Guest Column | September 8, 2023

Enhanced Water Footprint Tracking With Data Lakes

By Kate Sandoval


How multi-cloud data services can help protect the world’s water supply — and companies’ reputations.

There has been a steady stream of news regarding megadroughts and severe water shortages. Most recently, Arizona, California, and Nevada agreed to conserve at least 3 million acre-feet of water by 2026 to help keep the drought-stricken Colorado River flowing. The goal: Keep the river full. Unfortunately, this problem is far from solved. Individuals, small businesses, and multinational corporations need to ask themselves today what they can do to lessen the severity of droughts and floods tomorrow. Even the most sustainable companies and water-rich countries need to immediately start having conversations about the effects of climate change and their impact on water quality and security.

Water is essential to every person and business on the planet, making it critically important for all of us to understand how to consume water responsibly while helping to create a more sustainable future. Just like carbon before it, water is now the consequential topic of 2023. In order to remedy the damage done to this non-fungible resource, data must be systematically collected, cleaned, analyzed, and acted upon to generate a data-driven approach to water usage transformation.

What Is A Water Footprint?

The total amount of freshwater used in the production or supply of goods and services by an organization is a water footprint. Water footprints fall into two categories: direct (operational) and indirect (supply chain). A direct water footprint represents the specific water usage of an organization for its daily business operations, whereas an indirect water footprint is the water used in production activities, or throughout the supply chain, to fulfill a request for said organization. These categories are defined and measured in three ways:

  • Blue: Volume of surface and groundwater consumed as a result of the production of a good or service
  • Green: Volume of rainwater consumed during the production process
  • Gray: Volume of polluted water resulting from the making of a product.

There’s a lot to account for when companies decide to track their water footprints as part of their environmental, social, and governance (ESG) strategies, and data lakes can help

Data Lakes Enable Water Footprint Tracking

Companies have to simultaneously adhere to standards set by their own organization and industries to align with ESG strategies. Accurately reporting on ESG goals can positively or negatively impact an organization and change public and internal perceptions. Companies hitting the mark with their ESG goals are able to draw in investors, attract new customers, tap into new markets, retain top talent, and improve their bottom line.

As a finite resource, water is being tracked by companies as part of their ESG strategies. However, companies are using various solutions to capture and manage data associated with water footprints. ESG-specific platforms track the data, but how do they know the data they are tracking is data worth tracking?

Companies face two challenges when it comes to data. The first is the volume of data that needs to be processed and analyzed in order for companies to make informed decisions. The second is the complexity of the data itself. Water footprint data can come from a variety of sources, and just like water, that data needs to be clean in order to be consumed.

Modern Big Data solutions can help companies track their water footprints by providing the insights and information they need to identify and manage risks and opportunities, enhance transparency and accountability, improve decision-making, and meet regulatory requirements. But it can become difficult to navigate the labyrinthine structure of Big Data, especially with compounding features that exponentially increase the cost and complexity of an organization’s data. Such data can be highly variable, difficult to make sense of, and challenging to identify the patterns and trends needed for informed decision-making.

A multi-cloud data services (MCDS) platform is versatile and compatible with modern data lakes, alleviating some of the complexities that come with Big Data solutions. Data lakes, data warehouses, and even data lakehouses can all help organizations track their water footprints as part of their ESG strategies. Regardless of where an organization’s data are stored, an MCDS platform seamlessly integrates within an organization’s existing ecosystem. This enables organizations to leverage their data as they see fit, while at the same time increasing the quality so they can confidently set data-driven goals to improve their future water footprint.

Sustainability enhancements will continue to grow as ESG conscious organizations attract investors, bring in new customers, open new markets, retain top talent, and improve their bottom line. Data lakes help organizations collect data easier, but trusted data are needed to help drive and sustain these efforts. A data lake paired with an MCDS platform allows for data-driven decision-making, helping to ensure responsible business practices are measurable, now and in the future.

About The Author

Kate Sandoval is senior product marketing manager at Faction, Inc. (, a multi-cloud data services provider