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An introduction to water footprinting


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A short introduction to water footprinting. What is a water footprint? Why is it important? What to do about it

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An introduction to water footprinting

  1. 1. Water footprinting - a tool for managing supply chain risks Dr Craig Jones @EcoCraigJones
  2. 2. Contents • Why water? • Water impacts • An Introduction to water footprinting • Where is the impact? • Summary
  3. 3. Why Water? Water Footprinting
  4. 4. Is water the next carbon? “50 percent of the companies foresee near-term risks (1 to 5 years), with 39 percent currently experiencing impacts such as disruption to operations from drought or flooding, declining water quality, and increases in water prices.” CDP Water Disclosure “UK industry must show leadership on global water security. Through their global reach, businesses must examine their supply chains and production processes to assess and reduce their water footprint. This should be a core component of their corporate and social responsibility strategies.” The Royal Academy of Engineering “Global Water security – An engineering perspective” “water issues are already seriously disrupting manufacturing supply chains, and operational risks will rise...”. “They must first understand their exposure across geographies and along value (supply) chains and product portfolios” McKinsey, “The global corporate waterfootprint”
  5. 5. Our Water Resource There are 1,386 million cubic kilometers (km3) of water on planet Earth. But a lot of that is saltwater, or locked up in glaciers and icecaps. Source: United States Geological Survey Only 0.01% is available to use All the water in the world looks like this
  6. 6. Water Impact Water Footprinting
  7. 7. Impact 23 new steps have been added to the base of Mexico City’s Angel of Independence since it was built in 1910. Why? Mexico City is reliant on groundwater for its water supplies but over-abstraction has drained the aquifer below the city, causing the city to subside. The city has sunk 9 metres in the last century- about 10cm per year.
  8. 8. Impact • 2003 drought cost Europe €8.2 billion • 2007 Barcelona drought cost Catalan economy 1% GDP • 2011 drought in Texas cost $5.2 billion to the local economy • 2012 drought in US pushed up the price of wheat around the world Water scarcity is an increasing risk to economies and supply chains
  9. 9. Introducing Water Footprinting: A tool to help manage water related risks Water Footprinting
  10. 10. Water Footprinting • Water footprinting concept was developed by Prof. Arjen Hoekstra, University of Twente (Netherlands) • Water Footprint Manual – Freely available from the Water Footprint Network ( • Consumption based • Like a carbon footprint • But quite different to calc.
  11. 11. What is a water footprint? • A water footprint is separated into 3 classifications of net water consumption: Blue Green Grey Freshwater Rainfall ~ Polluted water + +
  12. 12. Water Footprints • An average bath = ~80 litres • Shower = ~60 litres • For comparison: • 1 cotton t-shirt = 2,700 litres • 1 kg beef = 16,000 litres • 1 tonne of gold = 500,000 litres (withdrawal)
  13. 13. International Standards – ISO 14046 • ISO 14046:2014 – Environmental management - Water footprint - Principles, requirements and guidelines • Standard based upon life cycle assessment (LCA) • Rather than the water footprint manual (water footprint network - WFN) • Standards normally take a few years to be picked up • Most work to date is to WFN method
  14. 14. Local consumption & global supply chains. Where is the impact? Water Footprinting
  15. 15. Hotspot Mapping • A high water consumption isn’t necessarily an issue by itself • We need to consider the stress this demand places on the local water resources • Supply versus demand • Hotspot maps overlay water consumption with local water stress data
  16. 16. • Picture to the right is a dried up river bed near Coto Doñana National Park in Spain • Growing strawberries for export • Places too much stain on the local water resources • Strawberries are exported • So consumed elsewhere Coto Doñana National Park, Southern Spain
  17. 17. Aral Sea in Central Asia
  18. 18. Aral Sea in Central Asia 1989 2008 • Growing of cotton for export has placed serious strain on water resources • Entire sea has almost completely dried up
  19. 19. Water Stress Map
  20. 20. Virtual Blue Water Import for EU Source: Water Footprint Network
  21. 21. Water Footprinting: Exposing Where the Real Impacts Are • E.g. Steel cladding used in EU… …could be causing a impact in India, which has considerable water shortages
  22. 22. Water Footprints • Water footprint of a lunch • Cheese sandwich • Packet of crisps • Bottle of cola • How much water did you just eat?
  23. 23. Water Footprint Summary Water Footprinting
  24. 24. Summary • Water footprinting is a tool that reveals water related risks and impacts in a supply chain • It shares a name with carbon footprinting • Although it is quite different than a carbon footprint • Good to identify supply chain and life cycle hotspots • Offering transparency and focus • i.e. Is your process 1% or 50% of the impact? • Is the water impact local or halfway around the world? • It can be used to measure, manage and monitor water related impacts
  25. 25. Thank You for Watching @EcoCraigJones Water Footprinting