Water Footprint

From WaterWiki.net

Jump to: navigation, search

The water footprint of an individual, business or nation is defined as the total volume of freshwater that is used to produce the goods and services consumed by the individual, business or nation.

Terms & Synonyms

Official WHO Definition

Other Definitions


Interpretations and Explanations

The Water Footprint Concept

The relation between consumption and water use

The water footprint of a nation shows the total volume of water that is used to produce the goods and services consumed by the inhabitants of the nation. Since not all goods consumed in one particular country are produced in that country, the water footprint consists of two parts: use of domestic water resources and use of water outside the borders of the country. The water footprint includes both the water withdrawn from surface and groundwater and the use of soil water (in agricultural production).

Blue water footprint vs. green water footprint

The total water footprint of a nation or individual falls apart into two components: the blue and the green water footprint. The blue water footprint is the volume of water withdrawn from the global blue water resources (surface water and ground water) to fulfil the national or individual demand for goods and services. The green water footprint is the volume of water used from the global green water resources (water stored in soil as soil moisture) to fulfil the demand for goods and services.

Internal vs. external water footprint

The total water footprint of a country includes two components: the part of the footprint that falls inside the country (internal water footprint) and the part of the footprint that presses on other countries in the world (external water footprint). The distinction refers to the difference between the uses of domestic water resources versus the foreign water resources.

Criticism of the water footprint concept

Due to the recent, spread of the water footprint as an indicator for water use, application and interpretation of the results has been performed rather for promotion of industrial activities and criticism of certain products without discussing the results in further detail. the 140 litres required for coffee production for one cup [1] might be of no harm to water resources as its cultivation occurs mainly in humid areas. Nevertheless, the promoted figures suggest to perceive the sum of water quantities as environmental concern, which is not supported by research or any justification.

Virtual Water

The water footprint concept is closely linked to the virtual water concept. Virtual water is defined as the volume of water required to produce a commodity or service. Virtual water imports are used (coming along with food imports) as a tool to release the pressure on the scarcely available domestic water resources. Virtual water import thus becomes an alternative water source, next to endogenous water sources. Imported virtual water has therefore also been called ‘exogenous water’.

When assessing the water footprint of a nation, it is essential to quantify the flows of virtual water leaving and entering the country. If one takes the use of domestic water resources as a starting point for the assessment of a nation’s water footprint, one should subtract the virtual water flows that leave the country and add the virtual water flows that enter the country.

Some facts and figures

  • The production of one kilogram of beef requires 16 thousand litres of water.
  • The water footprint of China is about 700 cubic meter per year per capita. Only about 7% of the Chinese water footprint falls outside China.
  • Japan with a footprint of 1150 cubic meter per year per capita, has about 65% of its total water footprint outside the borders of the country.
  • The USA water footprint is 2500 cubic meter per year per capita.
  • For drinking one standard cup of coffee in the Netherlands we need about 140 litres of water, by far the largest part for growing the coffee plant. A standard cup of coffee is 125 ml, which means that we need more than 1100 drops of water for producing one drop of coffee.Total coffee consumption in the Netherlands requires a total of 2.6 billion cubic metres of water per year, which is equal to 36% of the annual Meuse flow. The Dutch people account for 2.4% of the world coffee consumption. All together, the world population requires about 110 billion cubic metres of water per year in order to be able to drink coffee. This is equivalent to 15 times the annual Meuse runoff, or 1.5 times the annual Rhine runoff. The production of one cup of tea requires 35 litres of water in average.
  • Globally, water is saved if agricultural products are traded from regions with high water productivity to those with low water productivity. At present, if importing countries produced all imported agricultural products domestically, they would require 1,600 Km3 of water per year; however, the products are being produced with only 1.200 Km3/yr in the exporting countries, saving global water resources by roughly 400 billion m3/yr.

Calculate Water Footprint

The USA has an average water footprint of 2480m3/cap/yr, while China has an average footprint of 700m3/cap/yr.

The global average water footprint is 1240m3/cap/yr.

The four major direct factors determining the water footprint of a country are: volume of consumption (related to the gross national income); consumption pattern (e.g. high versus low meat consumption); climate (growth conditions); and agricultural practice (water use efficiency).

To calcuate your individual or national water footprint, go to The Water Footprint website


The Water Footprint website

  1. Template:Cite web

Footprint WHO-Lexicon page (translations and examples)

See also

Did you know?.. Facts and Figures around Water

UNESCO-Water Portal

External Resources


1532 Rating: 2.7/5 (58 votes cast)