© Adam Oswell / WWF
Water Positive

WWF has concerns about the adoption of "net positive water" in corporate sustainability, emphasizing the complexity of meaningful claims and the potential to reinforce inadequate solutions. WWF advises caution in adopting the term, as it may reinforce a more inward focus of action and distract from the greater (and more urgent) need to scale  water stewardship across basins  to address global freshwater biodiversity and climate crises. WWF does not support the use of "net positive water" without broader water commitments, emphasizing the importance of considering how such claims are delivered and addressing deeper systematic issues like collective action and water governance. A nuanced approach to freshwater rooted in water stewardship is encouraged.

For a more detailed outline on WWF’s position on Water Positive and Net Water Positive - please read our position paper “Net Positive Water” Considering its role in water stewardship and solving the linked freshwater, biodiversity and climate crises.


A summary of the key takeaways from this paper include: 

  1. “Net Positive” applied to water is complicated and risks entrenching ineffective solutions while still leaving companies exposed to material basin water risks. While the intention of “net positive” water is to communicate simply “more good than bad” and define scope of responsibility, in practice “net positive” water is largely a theoretical approach, typically focused on water balance, that assumes universal uptake in a basin which is highly unlikely. The concept has not been robustly and meaningfully proven effective to date and early evidence suggests it may lead to shorter-term “drop chasing” rather than addressing long-term systemic changes needed to achieve meaningful impacts within basins.
  2. Replenishment, which is a key dimension of delivering “net positive” for many companies, is not synonymous with collective action, and should not drive or dictate corporate water strategy. However, it can, if considered carefully, play a useful role for companies as part of a broader water strategy. Traditional approaches to replenishment were rooted in facilities, not farms (nor other portions of the value chain such as consumer use), and the concept is poorly suited to tackling the key issue: agricultural water use, where water use is nearly 4 times (or more) that of facility use on average. It is also worth noting that current approaches to replenishment are mostly reliant upon projected results and measured through analog means, while future approaches need to shift towards real (or near-real) time digital monitoring of both outcomes and impacts.
  3. Commitments, especially to “net positive water” are less important compared to ambitious action that delivers measurable outcomes and basin impacts. We need to be moving towards shared basin targets, not towards proprietary responsibilities. Solving shared water challenges will mitigate basin risk and deliver on water strategies, while solving proprietary targets will likely not help companies nor freshwater systems.
  4. Considering basin allocations remains a key gap for corporate water stewardship and “net positive” continues the trend of not addressing core water governance challenges. While in theory the concept of “net positive” could be applied at the basin scale, it would require universal uptake, which is not probable. Instead, we need to revisit the issue of basin (re-) allocations, land use practices and water governance if we want to tackle the integrated freshwater, biodiversity and climate crises. Accordingly, strategic engagement on water-related collective action and water governance remains a critical next step for corporate water stewards.

Overall WWF’s recommendations to companies considering the adoption of water positive framing to their work are: 



If you have any questions – please reach out to Alexis Morgan (Global Water Stewardship Lead) or Rylan Dobson (Senior Water Stewardship Manager) at waterstewardship@wwfint.org