Position statement on water stewardship

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January 2017


This position statement sets out ICMM members’ approach to water stewardship. Water stewardship is the use of water in ways that are socially equitable, environmentally sustainable, and economically beneficial.1 Effective stewardship requires collaboration and concerted action from all parties, including government, civil society, business and local communities through inclusive stakeholder engagement.

The commitments in this position statement require members to:

The position statement will not apply retrospectively.2

Background on ICMM principles and position statements

All ICMM member companies implement the ICMM Sustainable Development Framework as a condition of membership. This includes commitments to implement 10 principles throughout their businesses, to report in line with the Global Reporting Initiative’s (GRI) Sustainability Reporting Framework and to obtain independent external assurance that the ICMM commitments are being met (this framework is described in detail at www.icmm.com/member-commitments.

ICMM principles of particular relevance to water stewardship  are:

In accordance with the principles, ICMM has also developed a number of position statements that further elaborate member commitments to particular issues. Company members comply with these statements by incorporating them into their operational practices.

Recognition statements

ICMM members recognise that:

  1. Water is a precious shared resource with high social, cultural, environmental and economic value. Access to water has been recognised as a right3; integral to wellbeing and livelihoods and the spiritual and cultural practices of many communities. It is also essential to the healthy functioning of ecosystems and the services they provide.
  2. Water is a vital input for all mining and metals operations – required for the health and wellbeing of employees and at every stage of an operation’s life cycle including closure. The dependency and impact on a shared resource creates material risk for the mining and metals sector that requires effective management.
  3. Water challenges are increasing around the world. Earth’s freshwater resources are finite and under pressure from industrialisation, urbanisation, climate change and the needs of a growing global population.
  4. These challenges are shared across countries, industry sectors and society. In order to meet demand, a change is needed in the way water is used, managed and shared. This will require collaboration and concerted action from all parties, including government, civil society, business and local communities.  
  5. Through the Sustainable Development Goals, world leaders have publicly acknowledged the urgency of using and managing water sustainably. The business sector can play a significant role in supporting this approach including through ensuring access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) for employees in the workplace. There is further opportunity for the business sector to support government initiatives through leveraging capital or expertise to improve community WASH and other water related outcomes.
  6. Water-related risks and impacts are predominantly experienced by people and ecosystems at the local/catchment level. Therefore companies need to look beyond traditional operations-based water management to the dynamics and interactions of various water users in the wider catchment. Effective water management requires a holistic understanding of hydrology and land use, as well as broader political, economic, social and ecological dynamics that influence water availability and quality.
  7. The mining and metals industry has an important role to play in the sustainable management of water resources where companies are active. Proactive and holistic water management strategies can create substantial competitive advantage through reducing water-related risk, identifying opportunities, attracting investment and building trust through improved transparency.  


In addition to existing commitments under the ICMM Sustainable Development Framework ICMM member companies commit to:

Apply strong and transparent corporate water governance

Manage water at operations effectively

Collaborate to achieve responsible and sustainable water use


1. Source: Alliance for Water Stewardship.

2. Members are expected to implement the commitments in this position statement by November 2018.

3. ICMM members have committed to respect the rights, interests, special connections to lands and waters, and perspectives of Indigenous Peoples, where mining projects are to be located on lands traditionally owned by or under customary use of Indigenous Peoples. In addition, the UN General Assembly recognised access to safe and clean water and sanitation as a human right in July 2010.

4. A water balance is an approach used to measure the flow of water in and out of an operational facility. This provides the basis for understanding, managing and communicating the site's water requirements and use. A site water balance is comprised of three main components, namely: water withdrawals, water discharge and water consumption. The formula for calculating a site water balance is: withdrawal volume = discharge volume + consumption volume + any change in the volume of onsite water storage.

5. Cumulative impacts are changes to the environment that are caused by an action in combination with other past, present and future actions.

6. A catchment is the area of land from which all surface run-off converges through a sequence of streams, rivers, groundwater aquifers and lakes into the sea or another outlet at a single river mouth, estuary or delta. The term catchment is sometimes used interchangeably with drainage basin or watershed.