Bengaluru water crisis: Firms gulp more but also pledge to reduce usage

Population growth, rapid urbanisation and poor conservation efforts have put severe stress on India’s water tables. (Image: Pixabay)
Population growth, rapid urbanisation and poor conservation efforts have put severe stress on India’s water tables. (Image: Pixabay)


  • Water consumption in large listed companies registered in Bengaluru rose in fiscal year 2022-23, but some also showed commitment to reduce their water footprint and recycle more.

India’s tech hub Bengaluru has been grappling with an acute water crisis for the past few weeks. The city’s high concentration of major industries—beyond just tech—has set alarm bells ringing with temperatures set to shoot up further. While it’s not possible to track water usage at all offices across the city, a similar exercise for listed companies headquartered in Karnataka’s capital revealed an 11% collective increase in consumption in 2022-23.

Out of the top 1,000 BSE-listed firms by market capitalization, 56 have their registered office in India’s Silicon Valley. Of these, 45 companies had relevant data that was reliably available, which formed part of the analysis. 

The top five of these 45 companies, based on revenues, showed a 12.3% increase in water consumption in 2022-23, the latest year for which data is available. Public-sector firms reported an aggregate 2.2% growth, while private-sector firms increased their water use by 21%, the analysis showed.

Companies disclosed these numbers in their annual reports under the business responsibility and sustainability reporting (BRSR) guidelines. These trends do not represent the water consumption for only the Bengaluru region as they have offices or plants across cities and even overseas. Given the size of these companies, this analysis is only a proxy to assess the sensitivities that may guide businesses across their operations by virtue of being headquartered in a highly water-stressed city.

That said, the companies in the analysis also saw a rise in their volumes of water consumed in specific areas of water stress (based on the availability and applicability of the data), which did include offices and plants located in Bengaluru. But there were outliers, too. For instance, AstraZeneca Pharma India Ltd, which is registered in the city, managed to reduce water consumption in its Bengaluru facility by around 22%. Hitachi Energy India was another such entity to do so in its Bengaluru facilities.

The information technology (IT) sector, where water use is primarily limited to human consumption, saw the sharpest rise of 52% in 2022-23 as increasing numbers of employees were working from office. This was followed by real estate firms, with a 35% growth in consumption. The segment is widely believed to have deepened the crisis with booming construction activity in the region.

While gulping more water, companies also saw a similar rise in total water withdrawals from primary sources such as surface water, groundwater and municipal and third-party supply sources like tankers. 

But there were some visible efforts towards sustainable practices and reducing water footprint: around 36% of the companies in the sample managed to reduce their dependence on freshwater resources like groundwater—made possible in several cases through rainwater harvesting, recycling and reuse of treated wastewater.

For instance, in Aster DM Healthcare, 24% of water consumption was from recycled and rain water in 2022-23.

Some companies, such as 3M India Ltd, even set targets for reducing water use, while others sought more innovative ways to fulfil their needs: United Spirits Ltd said it was leveraging an innovative technology that draws water from the air. However, a little less than half of the companies in the sample relied heavily on freshwater withdrawals.

Yet another metric to gauge companies' efforts towards efficient water management was water intensity. The analysis showed that in almost two-thirds of the companies in the sample, water intensity (measured as water consumed per rupee of turnover) has reduced in FY23, serving as testimony of environmental stewardship even with growing scale of businesses. However, among the top six by revenue, only two companies saw a decline: United Spirits and Bharat Electronics saw over 12% fall in their water intensity.

Water intensity in terms of workforce (water consumption per employee) was higher in fast-moving consumer goods and capital goods segments. This makes such segments more vulnerable during water scarcity, and needs their committed efforts to replenish more. This analysis could not be replicated for all companies due to limited reliable data needed for an annual comparison.

Also Read: The depth of India’s water crisis, explained in charts

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