Water Footprint and Its Growing Importance

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What is Water Footprint?

Water Footprint refers to the amount of water used to produce different products and services. So, the amount of water used to produce a shoe or a shirt is the water footprint of that article. More specifically, it is a measure of water use pertaining to an item. It can apply to a product, a service, an individual, a country and even the whole world. An individual’s consumption of fresh water based on the products and services he or she uses or consumes per year is his or her water footprint.  

And make no mistake about it. We use a lot of water in ways that we would never anticipate, such as in the production of clothing. Consider that the production of one cotton suit might require over 14,000 liters of water ​or almost 3,700 for a cotton shirt. The water required for a cell phone may be as much as 916 liters. In 2016, the World Economic Forum ranked the water crisis as the highest concern for the next decade.

How Is Water Footprint Calculated?

An individual may not drink, feel or see all the water he or she uses or consumes. This is called, “Virtual Water” and it actually makes up the most of our water footprint. The combined total of direct and indirect usage of water in the lifecycle of products and related services all play a role in the overall footprint calculation.

There are three different types of water footprint; Green, Blue, and Grey.

Green Water Footprint: It refers to the amount of rainwater required to produce a product. It is mainly relevant for forestry, horticultural and agricultural products.

Blue Water Footprint: It refers to the amount of groundwater or surface water required to produce a product. Domestic water use, industry, and irrigated agriculture can each have a blue water footprint.

Grey Water FootprintIt refers to the amount of freshwater required to incorporate dilute pollutants to meet particular water quality standards (like the standards set by the US Clean Water Act).

There are several online water footprint calculators available to help you ascertain your water footprint. Some of these include:

Growing Importance of Water Footprint

Measuring water footprint and taking all the necessary steps to keep that level as low as possible is extremely important for mankind. This balance is urgently required because freshwater is vital to our daily life while the supply of freshwater is limited. As the world population is growing, the need for fresh water is growing too. And if we don’t take measures to keep water footprint level low, soon, we will be running short of fresh water. Experts predict that by 2030 the demand for global freshwater will exceed supply by 40 percent.

Reduced water supply will surely affect the worldwide manufacturing and agricultural industries.

As mentioned before, the majority of the water footprint of an individual is the virtual water. That means the indirect consumption of water by consuming different products and services account for the most amount of water consumed by an individual. With this in mind, the producer of those goods and services need to take steps to lessen the use of water in the production of their marketplace offerings.

The water footprint of countries indicates how careful and responsible the people and manufacturers of a country measure in terms of using water. Water usage is not separated by geopolitical boundaries, however. The implications of water management can be global in nature. So, water footprint is a global thing and the global community sooner or later will have to come to a consensus on the policies that can help all the countries keep their water footprint level minimum.