Why reduce Water Footprint?

Water has no taste, no color, no odor; it cannot be defined, art relished while ever mysterious. Not necessary to life, but rather life itself. It fills us with a gratification that exceeds the delight of the senses.
ANTOINE DE SAINT-EXUPERY (1900-1944), Wind, Sand, and Stars, 1939

There are numerous reasons why we should reduce our water footprint, the main ones being:

    1.Supply of clean water is scanty;
    2.Yearly ease of use of fresh water is restricted;
    3.Requirement for fresh water is on the increase;
    4.We have surpassed sustainable levels of water usage at several places; and
    5.Water is disproportionately distributed amongst public.

Due to all these reasons majority of places in the world are facing serious water shortage; rivers are running dry; many aquatic species are endangered; and lake and groundwater level is dropping to dangerous levels. Water foot print refers not just to the volume of water consumed but also to the water pollution due to the daily consumption. The major problem with water footprint is that we are unable to see the indirect water footprint of ours – the water consumed and polluted by us because of the goods we buy and consume. This footprint is far larger than the water we use directly at homes or at work and public places.

Conventionally nations too formulate water plans considering how to satisfy the need of its people. Very few countries consider the option to reduce water demand and extremely few consider how to increase supply of water. This is the reason why there is little importance paid to the issue of global water management. Nations when only consider the use of water in own country turn blind spot to the issue of sustainable national consumption of water. Numerous countries have externalised their water footprint without looking at the fact that whether the imported products result in water depletion or pollution in the nations producing the products.

Governments should try to figure out national water footprint so that they can figure out the standard components that provide a base to formulate national water as well as river basin plan so that water footprint is reduced as water is like oil and many countries do not have sufficient supply of fresh water. In fact, although there is a model Groundwater Law formulated by the Central Water Commission in India no state except Gujarat has adopted it and as a result many aquifers are being unsustainably over-pumped and groundwater tables are falling.

For businesses also reducing their water footprint is a must as it helps them to reduce risk in many ways. Firstly, physical risk is reduced as companies frequently face water shortages to run their operations or for their supply chain management. Secondly, if the companies do not address the water issues in sustainable and equitable way the reputation is damaged and the reputation is at the stake. Thirdly, the organisations may have to face government interference if they do not use the water as per the regulations of the area. Lastly, if all these important factors are not considered then it may increase the cost as well as reduce revenue for the businesses.

However, the same risks can be turned into opportunities when companies respond to reducing the water footprint in proactive ways. Numerous companies across the world are paying special attention to areas where problem of water scarcity and pollution is critical and work towards actual improvement in the situation thereby gaining a competitive advantage. Companies gain the status of socially responsible corporates and enhance brand name by reducing water footprint and make reducing the water footprint as much a part of their environmental strategy as reducing their carbon footprints.

For example Levi Strauss & Co. determined that one pair of jeans consume around 919 gallons of water during its lifetime (for irrigating crop, stitching and washing jeans). So Levi’s is taking measures to educate cotton farmers across India, Brazil and other places to conserve water. Also the company has its stone-washed denim that is manufactured using no water and the company is urging customer’s to wash jeans less and only using cold water. Also Levi’s has joined Better Cotton Initiative an organisation that works toward promoting water conservation, reducing the use of pesticide, and stop child labour practices in the industry.

Thus we can conclude that humans, nations and businesses all need to reduce water footprint as the benefits of conserving this scare resource are many.

References:

Hoekstra, A. Y., 2009, “Human Appropriation of Natural Capital: A Comparison of Ecological Foot print and Water Footprint Analysis”, Ecological Economics, Vol. 68, No. 7, pp. 1963-1974

Khan, S., Khan, M. A., Hanjra, M. A. and Mu, J., 2009, “Pathways to Reduce the Environmental Footprints of Water and Energy Inputs in Food Production”, Food Policy, Vol. 34, No. 2, pp. 141-149

Ridoutt, B. G. and Pfister, S., 2010, “Reducing Humanity’s Water Footprint”, Environ. Sci. Technol., Vol. 66, No. 16, pp. 6019-6021

http://www.waterfootprint.org/?page=files/CorporateWaterFootprints accessed on 26th September 2012.

http://www.waterfootprint.org/Reports/virtual_water_final_synthesis.pdf accessed on 26th September 2012.

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