Water is a global, collective resource. A nation’s water footprint is a crucial consideration accounting for its use of water and dependence on the external water resources. And why we say we must keep a check over our country’s water footprint? Let us understand.
“Water is the driving force of all nature”
–Leonardo Da Vinci
We are one lucky planet to have a sustainable life, thanks to our colourless liquid, water. It has played the most significant role in the development of mankind through evolution. Apart from replenishing the lost body fluids, water has been the companion of humans for their agricultural, manufacturing, and maintenance needs.
Almost every industry, literally every industry directly or indirectly, make use of water- food & beverage, clothing, construction, etc. The modernization and industrialization have levelled up the living standards of every country and have thus increased the demand for each of the industries. It is a great thing. But it has a side-effect too; it has increased the water footprint for each industry and nation as a whole.
Explaining Water footprints
There are two perspectives to view a country’s water footprint
It is the amount of water from the local resources that are used to produce goods and services within the country. The water footprint of agriculture, industry, and domestic water use falls under the production water footprint category. It includes the quantity of water used for producing/manufacturing or for supporting activities and indirect water use in the producer’s supply chain.
Another perspective of understanding a water footprint is from consumption point-of-view. The water footprint is calculated for all the goods and services that are consumed by the people living in a country. It includes water footprint from within as well as outside the nation, depending on whether the products are locally produced or imported.
Water footprint of production and consumption are observed and analysed jointly to accurately understand the nation’s water use and dependence on external water resources. Simply put, the combined water footprint of the business, community, products, and individuals gives a calculated value of much water is being consumed.
Here is a visual which will show the global water footprint
Any country’s water footprint can be determined by the following four major direct factors:
- 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
The Water Footprint Network maintains a global database on the water footprint of products. The global average water footprint is 1240 m3/cap/yr.
This whole calculation also includes the water consumption made on the products which are exported beyond the borders of a country.
How an increased water footprint affecting our lives
The availability of clean and safe water is on priority in the present era. In this respect, a study of water footprint can help in providing great insights. It provides data about the overuse of water by specific production processes, corrupt agricultural practices, and avoidable domestic water wastage.
One can understand the pressure we are inflicting on the local water resources. Not only the natural water resources have been exploited, but they have been polluted as well. The increase in the amount of non-available water due to pollution and scarce groundwater level has added more water footprints, at the community as well as at the personal levels. An increased water footprint is not a pretty picture to be laid by the country. It directly affects the health and future of its citizens. The table underneath will provide you a quick view of the water footprint of top nations of the world.
|Nation||annual water footprint|
|United Kingdom||1,695 m|
|United States||2,842 m|
It is a well-known fact that water use is growing at twice the rate of population growth.
India’s Water Footprints
India is a developing nation and has come a long way since its independence in 1947. Movements such as Make in India, privatization, etc. has opened more gates for more industries and opportunities. It is what a developing nation which has so much potential to rise and shine among some competitive powers of the world, needs. But it accompanied by several pitfalls too; increased water footprint is one of them.
India has 4 percent of the world’s water, which has to cater for 16% of the global population. Our 1.2 billion population contributes to a significant 12% of the world’s total water footprint. Many reasons are contributing to this non-sustainable situation. As believed by experts, the practices in the Indian agriculture sector is playing a significant role in increasing the water footprint. We are the top producers of cotton crops in the world. Here is a fact for all the overloaded shoppers in India- About 10,000 litres of water is used to produce one kilogram of cotton. Then, to make a T-Shirt using 250 grams of cotton, another 2500 litres water is consumed. And this goes even higher when a pair of jeans which uses 800 grams of cotton consumes 8000 litres of water. It has been reported that developing countries in Asia use 80-90 percent of the water for agriculture (leaving high water footprint) and only 5-12 percent of the water for industrial use.
In the current scenario, the water footprint of India is not sustainable. The sustainability of water use can be established via a rigorous assessment of all the clean water resources. It involves
· The current and future rates of water use,
· The impact of contaminated water streams on the environment
· Economic well-being of the area.
· Implementation of social policies. Setting up adequate water pricing to manage water demand is one example of social policies.
As being asserted, the conservation and smart use of available water resources are what our country needs. The preservation of our forests, conservation of rainwater through harvesting, saving tap water, spreading water conservation awareness, are few of the many steps that can be taken at business and personal level, towards achieving sustainable water footprint.
Solutions, as recommended by environmentalists
Water resources are limited. If you believe the current reports, we are soon approaching the years of the extreme water crisis. Many governments, non-governments, and even people at individual levels have joined the movement of saving the quality and quantity of available water on our blue planet. The methods for this have been said from time and again. Here is a quick recap of what can be done to reduce the water footprint:
- Reduce direct water footprint
- Turn off the tap while brushing your teeth
- Install toilets with a water-saving mechanism.
- Take shorter showers and use bucket more often, instead of a shower for bathing.
- Wash full loads of clothes while using a washing machine to save on discarded water.
- Take household leaks seriously, and fix them in the shortest time possible
- Use reasonable water while washing and gardening
- Check your activities to stop soil and groundwater
- Aware yourself of your water footprint and make smart use of the products that have abundant water footprints of their own.
- Reduce your indirect water footprint
- Make little changes in your eating and drinking habits. Drop the consumption of high-water footprint products for protein such as meat and opt for less water-intensive proteins include pulses like beans, lentils, and peas. Chicken has a much lower water footprint as compared to other categories. It is good news for non-vegetarians, we guess!
- Again, coffee is a high water-intensive beverage. Production of coffee beans requires far more water than growing tea leaves, around 140 litres for a cup of coffee, and approximately 34 litres for tea.
- Cut down your intake of sugar. The sugarcane crop uses a lot of water. Along with that, drinking a bottle of cola is equivalent to consuming around two or three bathtubs full of water.
- The same is the story with the consumption of processed food. Their lifecycle consumes an extensive amount of water at each sub-process.
- Buy long-lasting clothes, especially those which are made of water-greedy fabrics such as cotton. Re-use them.
The solutions are not just for consumers but for the manufacturers too. Businesses need to take the issue of rising water footprint and needs to be transparent about their processes. More forward-thinking in terms of regulation is expected from the government in this regard. It will help consumers to make conscious choices about what they buy.
It should be a win-win-win scenario; third “win” includes our beautiful planet.
We can help in controlling water footprint
Saving water through rainwater harvesting is a definite yes when you are concerned about your increasing water footprint. Several steps involve setting up a rainwater harvesting system at your premises. We have a team that can take you smoothly through this. Our rainwater harvesting products and systems can address the harvesting needs of a single household, community living, as well as established businesses.