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Perhaps no issue is more pressing than access to freshwater. More than a billion people in the developing world lack access to safe drinking water. Freshwater is also the bloodstream of the biosphere, a critical resource for sustaining biodiversity in both terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. In the face of these needs, the world's freshwater resources are seriously overtaxed. Sustaining the world's freshwater ecosystems while providing sufficient water for human needs requires the leadership of both the private and public sectors.

The expansion of industrial operations, land conversion, and manufacturing facilities presents challenges, as well as opportunities, for protecting water resources in developing countries. Businesses that demonstrate environmental leadership can help assure themselves of ample, long-term supplies of clean water, positive public visibility, and a healthy, engaged local employee base. But to be effective, companies' individual efforts must be part of a larger regional water use strategy. Leadership companies have the opportunity to leverage their influence and knowledge to positively affect the watersheds and communities in which they work.

The Center's Water Initiative is working with leading companies to promote business practices and public policies that help to conserve water resources, enhance water quality, and establish long-term strategies for sustaining access to water in an economically feasible way. Beginning in key regions that face challenges in ensuring sufficient supplies of clean water, the Center is collaborating with regional companies, local communities, and government officials to sustain water resources in critical ecosystems.

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