Know your water footprint

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 02 March 2011

A major step toward standardisation of water footprint measurement has just been achieved, with the issuing of a global assessment manual by the Water Footprint Network.

An average of 140 litres of water to produce a cup of coffee

The assessment manual, issued by the 139-member network and scientists of the University of Twente in the Netherlands, complements the recently completed Global Water Footprint Standard in giving consistency to measures of water use and impact.

“The Global Water Footprint Standard comes at a time when companies in all sectors are awakening to the risk that water scarcity poses to their bottom lines and reputations,” said Jim Leape, Director General of WWF International, a leading member of the Water Footprint Network.

“This work helps companies understand their dependency and impact on water resources, and offers guidance on response strategies that conserve water for industry, communities and nature.”

By measuring the amount of freshwater used in goods and services consumed or in production, the water footprint concept is helping companies reduce water use where it is most wasteful. Similarly, it helps banks assess water-related risks prior to making investments and governments improve water management.

How much water do you use?

Individuals can use the water footprint to understand how much water they are using through the food they eat, the clothes they wear and the consumer goods they buy. Changing to less water-intensive products and choosing to buy goods from water-rich areas or catchments that are sustainably managed will move them toward a sustainable water footprint.

“The water footprint of common products such as coffee can be surprising. For example, it can take an average of 140 litres of water to produce each cup of coffee,” said Ruth Mathews, Executive Director of the Water Footprint Network.

“In a world now seriously stretching its limited fresh water reserves, the Global Water Footprint Standard helps us all know more about how much water we use, where it comes from and how we each can take steps to make our water footprint sustainable. This is crucial to ensure that the world’s people and natural ecosystems will have the freshwater necessary to thrive well into the future.”

The Water Footprint Assessment Manual: Setting the Global Standard also clearly demonstrates how individuals, companies and nations can quantify their contribution to water-use conflicts and environmental degradation in river basins around the world.

Partners from business, civil society, government, global institutions and academic organizations are working with the Water Footprint Network to push for improvements in water use efficiency, pollution reduction and sustainable water management. As more pressure is put on freshwater resources, using the standard in all sectors and in all river basins will be increasingly important.

“This is the state of the art methodology for calculating water footprint,” said Stuart Orr, WWF International Freshwater Manager.

“It improves and builds on previous methodologies using the very wide range of expertise available through the water footprint partners and gives governments, business and communities much better information for improving their water management and, most importantly, reducing their water footprint.”

Source: WWF

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