Water Footprint Concept And Its Importance In Achieving Water Sustainability

Liansangpuii and Aradhana Thakur, Soil and Water Conservation Engineering,Institute of Agricultural Science, Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi

2018-08-07 09:14:22

Credit: pexels.com

Credit: pexels.com

Water is one of the most important gifts to mankind by the nature. It is very much important for various activities without which no development would have occurred on the earth. Our daily lives depend on water. Throughout the history of mankind, civilization has developed where water is available. Water has always been fundamental to development in the form of food production and industrial activities. It is a key factor in the environment as the universal medium for transport of nutrients and toxic elements.

More than one-half of India’s major rivers are being seriously depleted and polluted, threatening the health and livelihood of the people who depend upon them for irrigation, drinking and industrial water. Under the present condition of population pressure and regional disputes, water can be the potential reason for the conflict between regions of the country. Human activities consume and pollute a lot of water. At a global scale, most of the water use occurs in agricultural production, but there are also substantial water volumes consumed and polluted in the industrial and domestic sectors.There has been little attention paid to the fact that, in the end, total water consumption and pollution relate to what and how much community consumes and to the structure of the global economy that supplies the various consumer goods and services. Until the recent past, there have been few thoughts in the science and practice of water management about water consumption and pollution along whole production and supply chains. As a result, there is little awareness regarding the fact that the organization and characteristics of a production and supply chain strongly influence the volumes (and temporal and spatial distribution) of water consumption and pollution that can be associated with a final consumer product. Hoekstra and Chapagain (2008) have shown that visualizing the hidden water use behind products can help in understanding the global character of fresh water and in quantifying the effects of consumption and trade on water resources use. The improved understanding can form a basis for a better management of the globe’s freshwater resources.

The water footprint is an indicator of freshwater use that looks not only at direct water use of a consumer or producer, but also at the indirect water use. The water footprint can be regarded as a comprehensive indicator of freshwater resources appropriation, next to the traditional and restricted measure of water withdrawal. The water footprint of a product is the volume of freshwater used to produce the product, measured over the full supply chain. It is a multidimensional indicator, showing water consumption volumes by source and polluted volumes by type of pollution; all components of a total water footprint are specified geographically and temporally. The blue water footprint refers to consumption of blue water resources (surface and groundwater) along the supply chain of a product. ‘Consumption’ refers to loss of water from the available ground-surface water body in a catchment area. Losses occur when water evaporates, returns to another catchment area or the sea or is incorporated into a product. The green water footprint refers to consumption of green water resources (rainwater insofar as it does not become run-off). The grey water footprint refers to pollution and is defined as the volume of freshwater that is required to assimilate the load of pollutants given natural background concentrations and existing ambient water quality standards.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 litres of water ‚Äčor almost 3,700 litres for a cotton shirt.The production of 1 kilogram of beef requires 16,000 litres of water.To produce one cup of coffee we need 140 litres of water.1 litre of milk needs 1000 litres of water.1 kg of wheat needs 1350 litres of water.1 kg of rice needs 3000 litres of water.1 kg maize needs 900 litres of water.


A full water footprint assessment consists of four distinct phases:(1) Setting goals and scope (2) Water footprint accounting (3) Water footprint sustainability assessment (4) Water footprint response formulation.The phase of water footprint accounting is the phase in which data arecollected and accounts are developed. The scope and level of detail in theaccounting depends on the decisions made in the previous phase. After theaccounting phase is the phase of sustainability assessment, in which the waterfootprint is evaluated from an environmental perspective, as well as from asocial and economic perspective. In the final phase, response options, strategiesor policies are formulated.

Sustainability means efficiently providing safe, reliable, and easily accessible water as well as reliable sanitation and waterways protected from pollution. Sustainability also means being resilient and adaptable to extreme weather events that may contribute to issues such as flooding and scarcity. 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.

Every individual has responsibility to reduce ones  water footprint. Direct water footprint can be reduced by installing water-saving toilets and showerheads. Closing the tap while brushing your teeth and shaving. Use recycled water in the garden. Harvest  rainwater and use it for recharging groundwater or for secondary uses like washing cars and gardening. Indirect water footprint can be checked by being conscious about what we are buying. We should make sure that we are buying products that have a comparatively lesser water footprint. For example, buy a product that is produced from a place that is less prone to water scarcity. Switch to products that have a lesser water footprint. Eat more vegetables than meat, choose tea over coffee. This will encourage industries to be more water conscious and transparent in their water consumption.