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Water footprint: A new tool to examine water scarcity and use August 24, 2008

Posted by Raul in academic life, public policy issues, wastewater, water, water policy.
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Lighthouse Park West Vancouver

Water is a topic that I’m actually rather passionate about (and I’ve previously written about it, like my discussion of the culture of flushing and the concept of water governance). I love researching it and writing about it, particularly because a professor whom I really respect a lot (part of my doctoral committe) told me that the two issues he saw were going to be the most important in the future were water and energy issues. I came across the concept of water footprint via the Max Gladwell blog (actually their twitter account – Hat tips to Max Gladwell!).

What is the water footprint? Well, I am guessing it is modelled after the ecological footprint that Mathis Wackernagel and Bill Rees coined in 1992. The website WaterFootprint.org defines:

The water footprint is an indicator of water use that looks at both direct and indirect water use of a consumer or producer. 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 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). The water footprint is a geographically explicit indicator, not only showing volumes of water use and pollution, but also the locations.[Water Footprint.Org]

It’s an interesting concept, particularly when we apply it to our day-to-day staples, like a cup of coffee (that according to calculations by Hoekstra and Chapagain is about 140 litres of water per cup). As indicated by the Environmental News Network, the concept of water footprint gaining adepts. I was kind of pleased to find that the writer of the ENN article was associated with the World Resources Institute (WRI). One of my very best and closest friends is also associated with WRI as he did a post-doc there, and their datasets on water are some of the finest that I have encountered. Truly speaking, I would not mind doing a post-doc there.

I would like to know if any of my readers actually thinks much about his/her water consumption patterns. Do you ever think about your water footprint or your ecological footprint?

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Comments»

1. Urban dweller - August 24, 2008

I never thought about my water footprint. Ecological yes, that is why I decide to live in a condo and choose not to drive, even though I have a car. Excellent Post Raul, your blog is a refreshing departure from our comedic take on lifes goings on in VanCity. Keep it up mate!

2. Tyler Ingram - August 25, 2008

Not sure if I ever though about a water footprint. I mean I try to not leave the tap running while bushing teeth etc. Though being in places where water quality is not great I find that we do tend to take our water for granted.

3. Raul - August 25, 2008

@ Urban Dweller – Thank you kindly!

@ Tyler Ingram – Canada is characteristic for taking water for granted! šŸ™‚

4. Our Water Footprint is Deeper than it Looks | Max Gladwell - August 27, 2008

[…] footprint calculator. The Worldwatch Institute wrote an excellent piece on the subject, as did Hummingbird604. This is certain to be a topic of much study and […]


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