Water footprint, what it is and how it is calculated

cálculo de la huella hídrica

Water is an essential resource for life on our planet, being fundamental for the development of various human activities and ecosystems.

However, its availability and quality are being increasingly affected by factors such as climate change, population growth and the overexploitation of water resources.

Given this panorama, the need arises to evaluate and understand the use of water through the water footprint calculation.

It is therefore a valuable tool for sustainable water management.

What is the Water Footprint?

It is an indicator that measures the total volume of water used, directly or indirectly, to produce goods and services in a certain region or for individual consumption.

It is expressed in volume of water per unit of time, generally in cubic meters (m³) or liters (L), and takes into account three main components:

  • Blue Water Footprint: It represents the volume of surface or groundwater used in industrial, agricultural or domestic processes. It is water that is extracted from natural sources.
  • Green Water Footprint: Indicates the volume of rainwater used by crops during their growth. It is the amount of water that evaporates and is added to the products.
  • Gray Water Footprint: It reflects the volume of water necessary to dilute the pollution generated in the production processes, bringing it to acceptable quality standards. It is important to reduce this footprint, as it represents a burden on water resources.

Importance of Water Footprint Calculation

Calculating the water footprint is an important tool for informed decision making and sustainable water planning. It provides a global vision of the use of water in production and consumption, which allows identifying the most demanding sectors and critical points of excessive or inefficient use.

Additionally, the water footprint helps:

  • Water Resources Management: Evaluates the balance between water availability and demand, helping to avoid water shortages and problems.
  • Environmental Impact Assessment: It facilitates the understanding of the environmental impacts associated with water consumption in the different stages of production and distribution of goods and services.
  • Water Efficiency Improvement: Identifies opportunities to optimize the use of water in production processes, reducing consumption and pollution.
  • Promotion of Corporate Responsibility: It allows companies to evaluate their water impact and adopt measures for more sustainable and environmentally friendly production.

Methodology for Footprint Calculation

The calculation of the water footprint is carried out using a life cycle analysis approach. This evaluates water consumption in all stages of production and supply of a product or service.

The main stages to calculate the water footprint are the following:

  • System Definition: The limits of the system are established, including all phases from obtaining raw materials to their disposal.
  • Data collection: on water consumption at each stage of the process, considering the water used directly and that used in the products.
  • Water Allocation: The water used in each stage is assigned to different water footprint categories (blue, green or gray).
  • Calculation and Analysis: The total water footprint is calculated and the results are analyzed to identify opportunities for improvement.

This tool is key to addressing current challenges in water management and moving towards a more sustainable economy that is aware of the use of natural resources.

By evaluating water consumption in production, we can make informed decisions to protect and preserve this valuable resource for future generations.

Furthermore, the adoption of more efficient and responsible practices in the use of water is essential to build a future in harmony with our environment.

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