"When the well is dry, we learn the worth of water.”
Benjamin Franklin

If one would make a quick survey to their close friends and family, surely, we would see a major trend towards the feeling that last winter was a rainy one in our country. Indeed, considering IPMA figures, those were months of normal to high precipitation values. For that, I believe many will find it surprising if we tell that, by the end of July 2021, 60,5% of our continental national territory was facing a drought, from weak to severe status (PDSI Index – IPMA). 

Water scarcity starts to be an issue in the centre region of Portugal, getting worse as we head south, towards Alentejo and Algarve. World Resource Institute statistics point, if nothing is done, to high hydric stress in Portugal by 2040, with the transformation of the south part of the country into a desertic region!

Truth is, Portuguese people are not very conscious regarding water scarcity issues; it is an easy access resource, in the tip of a faucet, and it is the one that fewer weights on a family budget. According to Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian data, 71% of the Portuguese population never felt or even remembers a drinking water shortage situation in their region.

This is a problem that goes way beyond our national borders. World Economic Forum, in its Global Risks Report, since 2015 that points out water scarcity as the Biggest Threat that Planet Earth will have to face in the next decades, concerning the environment, people and the economy!

Currently, we already experience very concerning situations all over the world, related with the water problems, being the severe drought in California, which is already a national emergency in the USA, the 2 million-plus people that die yearly by water contamination related issues, or Syria’s civil war, intensely related to the water availability in that region.

Over 95% of our planet’s drinking water can be found in underground aquifers, which are being used much faster than their natural recuperation. And forecasts tell us that drinkable water needs will increase (a lot!) in a near-future due to serious factors, from which we pick two, directly related to the world’s populational increase:

  • World Bank predicts that food production will increase by 50% in 2050. Considering that agriculture is responsible for 70% of global water consumption, consequences can be disastrous. Specifically, in Portugal, where agriculture is also the major water consumption activity, 61% of the farmers state that they are not paying for the water they use, making usage efficiency a serious challenge. 
  • Population’s increase impact goes beyond drinking water needs, or food production; industrial activity and consumption, in general, are putting pressure on water usage for electricity production, mining activities, multiple goods’ production, and fuel processing. International Energy Agency previews that, in the next 15 years, water consumption for energy production will rise by 85%. 


Our planet’s hydric system is linked to climate, and climate change will impact tremendously drinking water safe access all over the world. Droughts, flooding, massive fires, erratic raining patterns, and melting icebergs will influence water reserves, and their quality. This will happen not in a near future, but now! We already see it every day on our TVs, our computers, our phones...

This is the scenario that contributed to the creation of the Portuguese Water Management Pact. The Pact was formalized in April 2021, as a result of the “Water Summit” event, organized by the Centre for Responsible Business & Leadership from CATÓLICA-LISBON, in June 2020. There are four fundamental messages that can resume the summit’s conclusion:

  • Drinkable water shortage is an undeniable reality
  • Companies have a clear role to play on this problem’s solution
  • Partnerships are fundamental for success
  • The time for action is now!


In this context, the entities that were involved in the summit agreed that coordinated action was needed, to put the Water theme on the Portuguese national agenda. To accomplish such a purpose, it has been agreed amongst all the creation of the Portuguese Water Management Pact, a project that comprehends the following funding entities: Beta-i; BGI; CATÓLICA-LISBON; Esporão; Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian; Grupo Pestana; Grupo Jerónimo Martins; L’Oréal; Scubic; Sugal Group; Super Bock Group; Tintex Textiles; Veolia. Furthermore, it has the corporate support of LNEC and Microsoft Portugal.

Water Pact main objectives are to promote a higher consciousness, deepen knowledge and disseminate best practices amongst their members in particular, and in the country in general, in the following areas:

  • Water as a valuable resource in the country’s ecological transformation, and it’s impact on health, economy and society
  • The need to adapt and accelerate mitigation measures in the climate change context
  • Water reusage relevance in the sustainable development for industries and cities
  • Empower best practices for a sustainable water management
  • Integration and cooperation strategy between public and privately held companies, and the Government (the Green Deal vision)


Despite all the trends pointing to an extremely complicated situation concerning drinkable water availability to a large portion of the world’s population, it is also true that we never had so many resources available (financial, human, and technological) devoted to water problematics.
Large investments are being made by industries and governments, under United Nations’ SDGs orientation. Consumers are more and more informed and demanding regarding the way companies produce their goods. And a larger number of corporations are incorporating Purpose into their business strategy, abandoning the profit pursuit as the exclusive business target, working instead for holistic value creation, shared between them and all their stakeholders. 

The solution is in our hands; we just need to “Learn the worth of water before the well is dry!”

Have a great and impactful week!

Marta Lima
Water Pact Executive Coordinator 

This article refers to edition #101 of the "Have a Great and Impactful Week" Newsletter.
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