A water risk index for portfolio exposure to climatic extremes: conceptualization and an application to the mining industry
- 1Columbia Water Center, Columbia University, New York, NY 10031, USA
- 2Earth and Environmental Engineering Department, Columbia University, New York, NY 10031, USA
Abstract. Corporations, industries and non-governmental organizations have become increasingly concerned with growing water risks in many parts of the world. Most of the focus has been on water scarcity and competition for the resource between agriculture, urban users, ecology and industry. However, water risks are multi-dimensional. Water-related hazards include flooding due to extreme rainfall, persistent drought and pollution, either due to industrial operations themselves, or to the failure of infrastructure. Most companies have risk management plans at each operational location to address these risks to a certain design level. The residual risk may or may not be managed, and is typically not quantified at a portfolio scale, i.e. across many sites. Given that climate is the driver of many of these extreme events, and there is evidence of quasi-periodic climate regimes at inter-annual and decadal timescales, it is possible that a portfolio is subject to persistent, multi-year exceedances of the design level. In other words, for a multi-national corporation, it is possible that there is correlation in the climate-induced portfolio water risk across its operational sites as multiple sites may experience a hazard beyond the design level in a given year. Therefore, from an investor's perspective, a need exists for a water risk index that allows for an exploration of the possible space and/or time clustering in exposure across many sites contained in a portfolio. This paper represents a first attempt to develop an index for financial exposure of a geographically diversified, global portfolio to the time-varying risk of climatic extremes using long daily global rainfall datasets derived from climate re-analysis models. Focusing on extreme daily rainfall amounts and using examples from major mining companies, we illustrate how the index can be developed. We discuss how companies can use it to explore their corporate exposure, and what they may need to disclose to investors and regulators to promote transparency as to risk exposure and mitigation efforts. For the examples of mining companies provided, we note that the actual exposure is substantially higher than would be expected in the absence of space and time correlation of risk as is usually tacitly assumed. We also find evidence for the increasing exposure to climate-induced risk, and for decadal variability in exposure. The relative vulnerability of different portfolios to multiple extreme events in a given year is also demonstrated.