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More to Food Waste; Water

Every single thing which you are holding, sitting on or nibbling is water. In the same way as plants and produce need water to grow, the computer you are typing on required liters of water during its manufacturing. The same goes for the clothes that you are wearing or the soaps and detergents that you use at home. We might not think of the water that is used in these products because we don’t see it bottled or coming out of our taps, but we are still consuming it. Our use of water resources directly impacts fresh water systems which is all the lakes and ponds, rivers, streams, springs, bogs, and wetlands

How much are we consuming?

Well, a lot actually given that from all the water on earth, only 3% is fresh water of which only 1% is readily available for our consumption (FAO, 2013). The Water footprint network (WFN) has estimated the average global consumption to be 1,240 m3 per year per person, with variations across regions and countries (Hoekstra. Y, A et al., 2011). Countries like Peru, China and the Democratic Republic of Congo use on average 600 to 800 m3 of fresh water per year per person. While countries like the USA and Russia have a much higher average of 2,100 to 2,500 m3 per year per person.

© The Water Footprint Network

In 2002 Arjen Y. Hoekstra (a water management professor at the University of Twente) presented the concept of The Water Footprint. This serves as a tool that tells us how much water is required to produce the goods and the services that we consume, be it food, clothing, or the running of a multinational company. It quantifies the impact of humans’ consumption patterns on freshwater system by looking at the full production process from the supply chain to the end user. This means that is looks at the water that is used directly and indirectly in the process. In so doing, making government, companies, and individuals are accountable for their water use (Hoekstra. Y, A et al., 2011).

What is wrong with a large water footprint?

Many people have the misconception that water’s status of renewability means that it is endless source. A renewable resource is not endless; rather it means that the natural rain cycle replenishes the resource. Water is continually moving throughout the planet, with each climate receiving its own kind and volume of precipitation so its availability in regions varies. If a community overuses or pollutes its water source, the source can temporarily run out. However through conservation efforts water resources can eventually be restored.

In the Netherlands the total water footprint is 23,000 million m3 per year meaning that every individual living in the Netherlands consumes 4,000 litres of water per day. However only 5% of this is internal, while the other 95% is external (Ibid). Water use in a globalised world means that products are not always consumed in their country of origin, water consumption is externalised to the countries producing the goods and services. This however does not mean that the consuming countries are not accountable for their consumption.

Rather, global water consumption is tracked at river basin and aquifer level, which is particularly useful to understand the implications of water consumption or pollution within that region. It especially matters in regions prone to water scarcity in countries like Chile, Malta or Kuwait, as further extraction or pollution of their water resources can be detrimental to their national water resources and global water systems.

The water food print is made up of three components; blue water, green water, and grey water.

© The Water Footprint network