water footprint

GC: n

CT: A tool that has been developed for the calculation of water needs for consumer products is the concept of the water footprint (WF). This tool has been introduced by Hoekstra and Hung (2002) and has been developed further by Hoekstra and Chapagain (2007, 2008). Those authors define the WF as the total annual volume of fresh water used to produce the goods and services related to consumption. So far, the tool has been used to assess the WF of food and cotton consumption. The objective of this study is to assess the water footprint per unit of energy from biomass (in m3/GJ) and to compare this with the WF of other primary energy carriers (oil, coal, gas, uranium, wind, solar energy and hydropower). In addition, the study aims to estimate how much additional fresh water is needed if a shift occurs towards energy from biomass and how this relates to the water needs for food and fibres.

S: http://www.circleofblue.org/waternews/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/Gerbens-Hoekstra-VanderMeer-2008-waterfootprint-bioenergy.pdf (last access: 24 February 2016)

N: 1. water (n): Old English wæter, from Proto-Germanic *watar (cognates: Old Saxon watar, Old Frisian wetir, Dutch water, Old High German wazzar, German Wasser, Old Norse vatn, Gothic wato “water”), from PIE *wod-or, from root *wed- (1) “water, wet” (cognates: Hittite watar, Sanskrit udrah, Greek hydor, Old Church Slavonic and Russian voda, Lithuanian vanduo, Old Prussian wundan, Gaelic uisge “water;” Latin unda “wave”).
footprint (n): 1550s, from foot (n.) + print (n.). Related: Footprints. Old English had fotspor, fotswæð.
2. A water footprint is a measure of the freshwater used in the production of the goods and services that a particular individual, business or nation uses.
A water footprint is comprised of two components: direct water use and indirect use. The indirect water use is measured as “virtual” water (the volume of water required to produce a certain product). It includes the use of:

  • blue water (rivers, lakes, aquifers)
  • green water (rainfall in crop growth)
  • grey water (water polluted after agricultural, industrial and household use).

3. The water footprint of an individual, community or business is defined as the total volume of freshwater that is used to produce the goods and services consumed by the individual or community or produced by the business. Water use is measured in terms of water volumes consumed (evaporated) and/or polluted per unit of time. A water footprint can be calculated for a particular product, for any well-defined group of consumers (e.g. an individual, family, village, city, province, state or nation) or producers (e.g. a public organization, private enterprise or economic sector).
4. Phraseology: water footprint accounting, assessment, sustainability assessment; water footprint of a business, of a consumer, of national consumption, of a product; water footprint within a nation.

S: 1. OED – http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?allowed_in_frame=0&search=water; http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?allowed_in_frame=0&search=footprint; (last access: 24 February 2016). 2. http://www.wwf.org.au/our_work/people_and_the_environment/human_footprint/water_footprint/ (last access: 24 February 2016). 3 & 4. TERMIUM PLUS (last access: 24 February 2016).


CR: carbon footprint, ecological footprint, green water, sustainability, sustainable development.