Committed to the Water Vision for Europe by initiating, supporting and enhancing initiatives and projects, giving water a common voice in Europe.
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FAQ

  1. What is water stewardship?

  2. What was the motivation to set up EWS?

  3. What are the objectives of the EWS?

  4. How was the EWS standard developed?

  5. Where is the EWS standard implemented?

  6. What is the advantage of a voluntary standard-based approach?

  7. How is EWS aligned with other environmental reporting systems?

  8. How was the EWS standard developed?

  9. What is the advantage of a voluntary standard-based approach?

  10. Why a stewardship standard for water users?

  11. What is the difference between the Water Stewardship approach and water footprinting?

  12. What is the process of certifying with EWS?

  13. What are the different steps towards EWS certification?

  14. What are the deliverables of the EWS?

  15. What do the different levels of certification signify?

  16. What are the benefits to improvements to water management via certification?

  17. What is the relationship between EWS and other environmental certifications?

  18. How does the EWS standard approach challenging issues?

  19. What other indirect benefits does certification provide?

  20. I have my certificate, now what?

  21. What are the advantages to becoming a member and how do I go about it?

  22. What is the relation between the EWS and EU policy?

  23. What is the relation between the EWS and the Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS)?

  24. Certification: Who is involved in the EWS certification process?

  25. Certification: What specific actions can our organization take to prepare for Certification or pre-screening?

  26. Certification: What is the system plan mentioned in the certification outline? Is it for client use or otherwise?

  27. Certification: What is the suggested time for audits with the EWS standard?

  28. Certification: How does the time for a surveillance audit relate to the time of an initial audit?

  29. Certification: What are the mandatory rates are for certification?

  30. Certification: Where can I find information about certification scheme fees?

  31. Certification: Is it possible for a corrective action to change the compliance status of a specific site? Could corrective actions possibly also change the level of compliance (bronze, silver, gold)?

The European Water Stewardship (EWS) is an integrative system for business and agriculture to assess, verify and communicate sustainable water management practices. The European Water Partnership (EWP) established the EWS in 2008 as the result of a wide stakeholder process, and the result embodies the collective effort and know-how of water users in agriculture and industry. The EWS follows the Water Vision for Europe by defining a system of clear steps towards sustainable water management at operational and river basin levels.

EWS goal: The EWS provides a voluntary, applicable system to change the behavior and practices of all water users towards sustainable water management. The EWS

  • Initiates private actions with independent guidance
  • Provides positive incentives for sustainable water management
  • Helps companies to communicate its successful implementation and achievements at operational level
  • Supports existing legal processes in the European Union.

Stakeholders conceived EWS to focus on water sustainability at river basin level, as water users agree that they share river basins in much the same way as they share sectorial, national or regional concerns. The EWS includes a standard and an evaluation system that makes “business sense” for adherents; mitigating physical, regulatory and reputational risks; and offering tried-and-tested steps to secure water availability in future.

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The EWS is the result of a multi-stakeholder process coordinated by the European Water Partnership and including partners from business, agriculture, golf, civil society and with the support of public authorities. To assure its applicability as a pragmatic tool, EWS has widely tested the standard on industrial production sites and farms.

The EWS is a pragmatic approach to assist water users in developing response strategies for sustainable water management. It operates within the context of current EU Policy and builds positive incentives to promote a change in behavior and practices of water use, management and governance.

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The EWS comprises:

  • The European Water Stewardship (EWS) standard.
  • The referring glossary and guideline.
  • The EWS multi-site standard.
  • The certification scheme.
  • The referring EWS group certification scheme.
  • The communication scheme.

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There are 4 principles with 14 criteria covering the following areas of sustainable water management:
  1. Achieve and maintain sustainable water abstraction in terms of water quantity.
  2. Ensure the achievement and maintenance of good water status in terms of chemical quality and biological elements.
  3. Restore and preserve water-cycle related High Conservation Value (HCV) areas
  4. Achieve equitable and transparent water governance.
It is against these principles, criteria and referring 53 indicators, that a compliance assessment is conducted. Compliance leads to the following benefits:
  • Performance indicator of corporate water resource management.
  • Best practice tool.
  • Independent proof of sustainable water management for stakeholders.
  • Internal benchmarking and target setting device for water management strategies.
  • Improved and optimized resource management at production site-level.
  • Enhanced awareness and leadership within river basin activities.
  • Visibility for and access to markets.

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From November 2008 until February 2010, the EWS standard has been developed in a multi- stakeholder process coordinated by the European Water Partnership and including external experts and partners from business, agriculture, civil society and European authorities. Within the first year of EWS implementation from 2011-2012, the focus was on fine tuning the application of the EWS standard by pilot testing diverse sectors in agriculture and industry. The final reports of those pilot tests are available at this link. Piloting allowed EWS to develop sector specific guidance for the implementation process. At the end of 2012 EWS moved into a new phase focusing on certification, beginning with pre-screening of interested partners. EWS was proud to announce its first certification at the beginning of 2013, leading the way for greater development of the certification scheme in the coming years.

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The EWS standard is relevant for all countries applying or preparing to apply the Water Framework Directive, this includes EU member states, candidate EU members states and EFTA member states. Including • Austria • Belgium • Bulgaria • Croatia • Cyprus • Czech Republic • Denmark • Estonia • Finland • France • Germany • Greece • Hungary • Ireland • Italy • Latvia • Lithuania • Liechtenstein • Luxembourg • Malta • Netherlands • Norway • Poland • Portugal • Romania • Slovakia • Slovenia • Spain • Sweden • Switzerland • United Kingdom. Candidate countries: • Albania • Iceland • Montenegro • Serbia • The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia • Turkey. Potential candidates: • Bosnia and Herzegovina • Kosovo. Countries Voluntarily Implementing WFD as part of the ICPDR: • Ukraine • Moldova

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Voluntary approaches can be a powerful tool to improve Water Stewardship practices on-site and to complement legal measures towards a sustainable water management at river basin scale. The strength of voluntary environmental schemes lies in collecting and serving multiple interests to benefit from more flexible regulation, lower administrative burdens, and superior environmental performance. Approaches can be mitigated by ensuring that the schemes are performance-based, transparent, involve third-party evaluation, and include sanctions or rewards mitigates potential weaknesses of voluntary approaches.

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EWS has benchmarked its standard against other environmental reporting schemes such as GRI Global Reporting Initiative and CDP Water Reporting. Additionally, EWS still is recommended by GLOBALG.A.P. as a water specific add-on to its certification. EWS has been member of the Global G.A.P. Water Management SHC and has become member of the Global G.A.P. Sustainable Production Committee. For benchmarking against GRI Reporting please see here: http://www.ewp.eu/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/EWS+GRI-Mapping-document-June-2014.pdf For benchmarking against CDP Water Reporting please see here: http://www.ewp.eu/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/EWS+CDP-Mapping-document-April-20141.pdf

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From November 2008 until February 2010, the EWS standard has been developed in a multi- stakeholder process coordinated by the European Water Partnership and including external experts and partners from business, agriculture, civil society and European authorities. Within the first year of EWS implementation from 2011-2012, the focus was on fine tuning the application of the EWS standard by pilot testing diverse sectors in agriculture and industry. The final reports of those pilot tests are available at this link. Piloting allowed EWS to develop sector specific guidance for the implementation process. At the end of 2012 EWS moved into a new phase focusing on certification, beginning with pre-screening of interested partners. EWS was proud to announce its first certification at the beginning of 2013, leading the way for greater development of the certification scheme in the coming years.

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Voluntary approaches can be a powerful tool to improve Water Stewardship practices on-site and to complement legal measures towards a sustainable water management at river basin scale. The strength of voluntary environmental schemes lies in collecting and serving multiple interests to benefit from more flexible regulation, lower administrative burdens, and superior environmental performance. Approaches can be mitigated by ensuring that the schemes are performance-based, transparent, involve third-party evaluation, and include sanctions or rewards mitigates potential weaknesses of voluntary approaches.

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A specific water standard for water is considered necessary not only to sustain ecosystems and the livelihood of production dependent on the resource, but also because other voluntary environmental standards do not correctly or exhaustively cover water. Few standards are comprehensive in how they treat water management in an integrated manner and thus do not appropriately address performance or cumulative impacts at river basin level. The EWS standard is applicable in operations both “in-fence” and at river basin level, since it is evident that assessment which is restricted to the operational site is inadequate to reduce risks and improve cohesive water management at a broader scale

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Water footprint accounting provides a spatially and temporally explicit indicator of direct and indirect water use of producers and consumers; it thus has a specific focus on the transfer of water resources within supply chains and analyses related issues such as water quality and environmental water requirements in volumetric terms. It recognises that freshwater is a globally scarce resource and applies the economic concept of opportunity costs to water resource decisions. Water footprinting is a valuable tool to help large organisations rationalise their use of water in products and production processes. This is contrasted with the Water Stewardship approach, which is based on the principle that impacts and risks relating to freshwater use are experienced at the local (river basin) level- so supply chain water use is evaluated only insofar as it impacts on the integrity of the river basin. Understanding and managing these risks requires an ‘out of the fence’ approach based on engagement with all water users within the catchment, so a single quantitative metric may be difficult to use because of the need to consider a range of data. A single measure of water quality, for example, will not aid compliance with the substance-specific requirements of European regulation such as the Water Framework Directive. However, the Water Footprint Network is in the process of Beta-testing a free online tool, the Water Footprint Assessment Tool, which could potentially assist compliance with the EWS Principle of ‘Achieving and Maintaining Sustainable Water Abstraction’. The final WFAT is intended to help identify areas and times of water scarcity within a global database of river basins at a monthly resolution, and could be a useful means of managing abstraction and discharge rates where permit or regulatory requirements do not exist- subject to final testing.

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An independent third-party evaluation process assesses and reports on the on-site performance of a water user. Step 1 High level management should take the decision to reduce water use and aim for an integrated sustainable water management, as the initial investment can be high with long return periods on investments. For any business size, the decision to reduce water AND consider all other aspects of water use also demonstrates clear corporate social responsibility – the value of which must not be under-estimated. Step 2 Technical advice can range from discussions with colleagues, observations of other practices, common sense, independent technical expertise or support through membership of an association or group. The important aspect is that a clear strategy is prepared and full-cost benefits clearly identified. Step 3 A third party certification body implements the EWS standard on-site monitoring compliance with the standard requirements and reporting the internal system plan. The implementation of the standard identifies points of improvement and assists in the development of management strategies. Step 4 Certification is an independent verification that the water management system is compliant with EWS requirements. The decision to become certified must be for the correct reasons – Access to new markets, Corporate Responsibility or legally required etc. Management bodies can elect to perform certification as individual certification or as part of a multi-site or group scheme.

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Depending on the sector and the purposes of EWS implementation, an organization can elect to implement the EWS standard via pilot testing (normally reserved for new sectors), pre-screening or to go straight for certification option. The objectives and deliverables of each are presented in the table above. For more information on the most realistic option for your organization, you are encouraged to contact the EWS team.

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The EWS provides a robust system consisting of a standard document and the referring audit documents and evaluation schemes. Clients can implement the EWS system either as a separate assessment scheme or as “add-on” to existent certification standards. The EWS documents include:

  1. EWS Standard: Valid for all water users in all sectors in Europe, the EWS standard discloses the four Water Stewardship principles with referring criteria and indicators. This document has been developed by sector-specific Working Groups and revised by external experts and in public consultations.
  2. Accompanying standard documents: A glossary and a guideline document, including a compilation of sector specific best management practices, complement the standard document.
  3. Checklists: Audit checklists are available to evaluate the on-site performance of a water user on-site.
  4. Evaluation scheme: Directly linked to the checklists, an approved evaluation scheme permits the assessment and benchmarking of the water user’s performance on-site and within the referring river basin.
  5. System Plan- Which highlights all the steps needed in order to address compliance with the standard.
  6. Certification Plan- Provides in depth background, detailing the process, rules and regulations regarding certification with the EWS system.

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The final certifications can either be classified as bronze, silver or gold depending on the level of performance. Gold level signifies compliance with all major requirements and at least 90% of minor requirements. Silver level signifies compliance with all major requirements and at least 70% of minor requirements. Bronze level signifies compliance with all major requirements and at least 50% of minor requirements.

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Certification creates several direct benefits leading to overall on-site water management improvements including:

  • Mapping of water cycle at operational site as an indicator of corporate performance of water management.
  • Reduced water use with reduced associated use costs.
  • Identification of where and how an improvement and mitigation action is a tool for development of best management strategy.
  • Provision of internal information via education and trainings.
  • Benchmarking and target setting for water management.
  • Means of communication of sustainable water management to stakeholders.
  • Internal benchmarking and target setting device for water management strategies.
  • Improved and optimized resource management at production site-level.

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The EWS Standard complements existing environmental systems such as ISO14001, albeit with a specific focus on risks and continuous improvement opportunities specific to water. As such, water-related risks identified within an ISO14001 audit can be effectively mitigated through EWS. Firms interested in pursuing EWS are encouraged to integrate EWS pre-screening and certification within their existing auditing activities. For example, existing ISO14001 auditors could become recognised as EWS Certification Bodies- thus minimising duplication.

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Challenging issues are addressed by the following EWS guidance tools:

  • Questionnaire for investigation of external water suppliers.
  • Procedure for reporting on potential pollutants.
  • Procedure for addressing wastewater within the production site.
  • List of basic criteria for wastewater treatment plants.
  • Evaluation of impacts on biodiversity in high conservation value areas and ecosystems.
  • List of sector-specific best management practices.
  • Sector-specific guidance documents along with recommendations for best management practices and checklists.

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The strength of a certification scheme for water use is that it extends beyond mere water accountancy and assists companies in responding to factors linked to local water related challenges water use via management as well as via communication to investors, customers and within supply chain. This provides:

  • Opportunities for visibility on important environmental issues
  • Reduction of reputational risks by generating local public acceptance of production sites and more widespread approval of the company.
  • Integration of policy with strategy agendas in order to address issues of non-compliance with obligatory legal frameworks
  • Enhanced awareness and leadership within river basin activities.
  • Visibility for and access to markets.

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Once certification has been completed certifiers including farms, farmer groups, organizations with multiple certifications and third party certification production sites can all use the EWS logo and the term European Water Stewardship to communicate their bronze, silver or gold status. As, the logo is considered an off product claims thus it can only be communicated via business to business correspondence, in sales documentation, promotional material or sustainability reports and not directly on products. Additionally, the CB must approve all communication prior to dissemination.

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EWS provides opportunities for individual EWS membership and for EWS Promoters addressing public institutions in research, policy and NGO sector as well as private sector associations. Membership to EWS provides a wide range of membership benefits including:

  • The opportunity to participate in the working groups attributed to EWS activities.
  • Visibility via EWS communication and outreach.
  • Participation in EWS working groups and advisory meetings.
  • Eligibility to vote on revisions to EWS standard.
  • Link to EU Water policy.
Qualification is based on the following criteria:
  • Aims of the organization in becoming a EWS member or promoter are consistent with EWS goals and mission.
  • Proven willingness to contribute to the mission and activities of EWS.
  • Organization is registered with concerned authorities within an EU member state and is regularly renewed.
  • Governing body of the organization has taken the executive decision to become a EWS member or promoter and signed the referring EWS agreement.
  • Organization understands the EWS mission and is prepared to pay required EWS fees once accepted.
  • Organization understands that the EWS governing body retains the right to reject the organization’s application.

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The EWS standard has incorporated important elements of Water Framework Directive (WFD) and priorities established in the Blueprint to Safeguard Europe’s Water Resources its core indicators, Thus, EWS compliance reliably demonstrates a water user’s commitment to furthering EU objectives for water management. Furthermore, the EWS approach supports to the goals of the WFD and Blueprint implementation via:

  • Encouraging the active involvement of the private sector on river basin scale.
  • Providing positive incentives to change behavior and practices of water use, management, and governance.
  • Promoting Water Framework Directive (WFD) requirements through standard indicators and checklists.
  • Developing a platform for pro-active “Water Stewards” taking a lead in the dissemination and implementation of the WFD goals.
  • Connecting its partners and implementers to a global platform for identifying potential partnerships to improve water management (Water Action Hub).

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The EWS is a recognized Regional Initiative of the Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS) with EWP as the designated coordinator of this initiative. EWP is active member of the AWS Board of Directors, the strategic head of AWS who aims for a globally harmonized definition and implementation of the Water Stewardship approach (www.allianceforwaterstewardship.org). EWS has worked extensively in the building of the global standard in order to assure a closely aligned standard.href="www.allianceforwaterstewardship.org">www.allianceforwaterstewardship.org). EWS-AWS

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In order to ensure the integrity and transparency of the EWS certification process. A third party certification body who also then issues the final certificate performs the auditing of the operational site. EWS auditors from Approved Certification Bodies have attended “EWS Basic Inspection Requirements” training session, passed the “EWS Basic Exam”, and completed two successful audits with a EWP witness. EWS Recommended Consultancy Organization have also undergone trainings along with demonstrated their extensive experience in the water management sector.

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In order to prepare for certification we recommend that organizations:

  • Search for information on their river basin, particularly if located in water stressed river basin. The following links provide useful background information:
    • http://www.eea.europa.eu/themes/water/interactive
    • http://www.eea.europa.eu/data-and-maps/find#c1=Map&b_start=0&c6=water
    • http://ec.europa.eu/environment/water/participation/map_mc/map.htm
  • Gain knowledge about your water consumption/unit or process.
  • Know the hot spots of your water management.
  • Know the substances which are used on site.

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The system plan is a kind of “operator-internal EWS checklist”. The operator is required to complete the checklist before the CB starts the certification process. With that the CB can prepare the audits efficiently and the operator has initiated gathering information required for implementing the EWS standard on-site.

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Pre-audit preparationis 1 to 1.5 days. Initial audit requires a full day, in particular when you have to visit external sources/wells or waste water treatment plants. Follow up audits depend on the complexity of the productions sites and the improvement points coming from the initial audit but are estimated 4-6 hours. Ideally these audits are combined with other environmental audits as GlobalGAP audits or with ISO 14001 audits. The combination of site specific criteria can influence the amount of time spent on an internal audit. The most critical details to consider are: -Site setting and distance from the operational site: Certification Bodies are required to visit all water sources and discharge sites during initial audit. -The size of technical sites and for agricultural sites the distance between fields. -Complexity of production process in terms of water -Whether the operator has already had consultancy operations or a EWS pre-screening which signifies that major documents are in place and available for information, regardless the system plan should always be available prior to audit.

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The surveillance audit timing after an initial audit depends primarily on how many improvement points previous audits identified, as well as the changes which have taken place between audits (i.e. personnel, technical); on average this usually is about 50%.

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Each Certification Body determines the individual rates for certification; however, the EWS license fees are set and should be taken into account when considering this rate.

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For information on certification scheme fees please see here. Operators are required to pay the operator registration fee and the certification license fee.

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Certification Outline (5.1) describes the corrective actions allowed under the EWS scheme. At minimum the audit report must contain in detail a written description of the corrective action. Operator must prove the completion of this corrective action and Certification Body must accept the corrective action as sufficient within 30 days of the audit completion.

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