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Tomorrow is World Water Day, a time dedicated to the pursuit of universal access to clean water and sustainable habitats. It’s usually full of charity ads, seminars, and events, but Microsoft is taking a slightly different approach.

The idea lies in the huge and growing amount of water used for the production and delivery of goods.

“Much of the world’s water is hard at work in the production and delivery of nearly all goods and services, from apples to zippers,” says Josh Henretig, Microsoft’s senior director of environmental sustainability. “And the amount of water needed to make products is only going to increase, with manufacturing expected to use 400 percent more water from 2000 to 2050.”

Naturally, growing usage has led to concern about where it comes from, and what happens once it’s served its purpose. That’s where Microsoft’s new Water Risk Monetizer (WRM) tool comes in.

A Data-Based Solution

Water Risk Monetizer comes from a collaboration between Microsoft, Ecolab, and Trucost, and is currently available in New York City. It takes water scarcity data and translates it into a language businesses can understand – financials.

“Right now, companies understand what they pay for water. But this price doesn’t include the real cost of water, and as a result, water remains significantly undervalued in much of the world,” explains Henretig. “This disconnect makes it hard to make the business case to invest in effective water reduction strategies, or to optimize where to locate or expand operations.”

WRM gives businesses that data, providing rankings of risk for each facility, assigning action plans, and plotting them on a simple graph. The hope is for businesses to see both the need for optimization and develop plans for the local area.

The San Antonio Datacenter

Microsoft appears to be practicing what it preaches, especially in regards to its San Antonio data center. It’s within the Leon Creek Watershed, a high-risk area. Using WRM, Microsoft saw that its operations were 11 times higher than the San Antonio Water System bill.

The data led to the implementation of a recycled water solution that saves over $140,000 a year and 58.3 million gallons of water. It’s a solution that “has the potential to the change the world.”