The world’s largest manufacturers and investment firms, including General Electric, Goldman Sachs and Coca-Cola, are backing a major water database aimed at helping prevent disastrous regional shortages of the critical resource.

The launch of the database, backed by a new group known as the Aqueduct Alliance, was prompted by water disasters across the world, such as recent droughts in the southwest of the US and flooding in China.

The launch comes at a time when east Africa is experiencing one of its worst droughts in 60 years, with more than 10 million people in Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, and the Republic of South Sudan left in desperate need of food, water and healthcare.

The Aqueduct Alliance was founded by the Washington DC-based think tank the World Resources Institute (WRI), investment bank Goldman Sachs and manufacturer General Electric. It also has the support of news and data firm Bloomberg, The Dow Chemical Company, Talisman Energy, and United Technologies, the building and aerospace firm.

Beverage giant Coca-Cola has also committed to providing a raft of data from its proprietary database of water risk information, which it uses to ensure a consistent supply of its most vital ingredient.

The WRI said the database was “at the heart” of the Aqueduct alliance’s efforts to tackle water shortage. The database would consist of “accurate, high quality information” that would allow “companies, investors, governments and others” to create detailed water risk maps.

The demand for water is projected to outstrip supply by nearly half by 2030, according to charity the Carbon Disclosure Project. It also found that four in 10 businesses had experienced disruption to their operations from water shortage and wanted to urgently mitigate the risks.

“Robust risk assessment is the foundation for developing strategic water resource management plans at the business, watershed, and municipal levels,” said the WRI. “The maps generated by Aqueduct combine advanced hydrological data with geographically-specific indicators that capture the social, economic, and governance factors that affect companies and economies.”

WRI has developed a working prototype of the database and risk mapping tool, covering the Yellow River Basin in northern China, where there has been regular severe flooding. It plans to launch an updated interactive web platform shortly, showing global and basin-specific maps and information on water risks.

The data will be available to anyone to view. The Aqueduct Alliance intends for it to help promote much better dialogue on water between citizens, companies and governments, in order to encourage better usage and planning.

Kyung-Ah Park, managing director of environmental markets at Goldman Sachs, said many investment and planning decisions made by firms around the world fail to properly consider the impact on resources. “Water risk is becoming an increasingly critical global issue, but one that is inherently local and not yet fully considered in business and investment decisions.”

Water risk, said GE Power & Water chief sustainability officer Jeff Fulgham, had become “one of the greatest threats to long term economic and environmental sustainability”.