Saturday, 2 February 2013

Water Footprint

What is a resource footprint?

We are all becoming familiar concept name of "carbon footprint" a name that originates from an ecological footprint discussion. The principal of which was developed by Rees and Wackernagel in the 1990s. The discussion estimated the number of "Planet Earth"  that would theoretically be required if everyone on the planet consumed resources at the same level as the person calculating their own personal ecological footprint. 

The ecological footprint is a measure of human demand on the Earth's finite ecosystems. It is a measure of demand for all natural resources that may be contrasted with the planet's ecological capacity to regenerate.

The word "footprint" is now more and more often appended, after some use of a named resource. The more common one is the carbon footprint - However, as carbon footprint is much more specific than the catch all ecological footprint. Since they measure direct emissions of specific gasses that cause climate change into the atmosphere.

However, today we are much more aware of our notional carbon footprint. Which is much more specific than ecological footprint. Since the footprint calculation measures the direct emissions of gasses that cause climate change into the atmosphere. This helps to give a more recognisable resource consumption measurement. So the carbon footprint is measured in greenhouse gas emission. 

Now its the turn of the "water footprint". The term water footprint is often used to refer to the amount of water used by an individual, community, business, or nation. In other words how much of the water resource do you consume or use. Like the carbon footprint that went before it. Your water footprint can vary depending on your lifestyle. Unlike the carbon footprint your water footprint tends to be a direct figure using a water measure that we are more familiar with.

Things that we can do as individuals to reduce our water footprint include:

  • Take a shower rather than a bath.
  • Install a toilet with a dual flush that lets you use less water if its not needed.
  • Reuse water after washing to water plants.

There is an elaborate Water Footprint Assessment Manual available produced by the Water Footprint Network on how to calculate a water footprint. Once you have acquainted yourself with the contents of the manual  you can do an on-line personal water footprint calculation for yourself Click Here

Research by the Cranfield University calculated the amount of water required to produce various common foods in the United Kingdom: The figures become astronomical for the production of some food resources.
ProductAmount LitresAmount Gallons
1 cup of tea32.4 l8.6
1 pint of beer160 l42.3
1 glass of wine120 l31.7 
1 glass of milk200 l52.8
1 kilogram (2.2 lb) of beef15,000 l3,962.6
1 kilogram (2.2 lb) of poultry6,000 l1,585.0
250 grams (8.8 oz)
packet of M&M's
1153 l304.6
575 grams (20.3 oz) of
Dolmio pasta sauce
202 l53.4

The average global water footprint of an individual is 1,385 m3 per year. While the water footprint of the U.K. is 1,695 m³ water/person/year.

Our rivers in the UK tend to have flowing water for most of the year. However low water levels in our rivers are caused more frequently by water abstraction than a lack of rainfall. Water infrastructure is one of the major causes of freshwater ecosystem degradation. It includes: dams, reservoirs, equipment for generating hydroelectricity, canals, pumps that transport water to homes and fields. Not forgetting flood defence and water pollution which is on the rise all over the world. Much of it is down to human activities - including run-off from agriculture and mining, atmospheric emissions and industrial and domestic waste water. The pollution of the world’s rivers, lakes and wetlands has a huge impact on the health of people, plants and animals. In many places, there are so many pollutants that rivers can’t dilute them, leaving river systems seriously degraded.

Practically all businesses depend on water. And they can no longer take this crucial resource for granted. Changes in rainfall patterns because of climate change also make future water supplies uncertain. Poor water governance - locally, nationally and globally - is a major challenge in many places in the world. Often the laws, policies and institutions meant to protect and manage water aren't strong enough. Sometimes there isn't enough money, or the necessary understanding or technology. I think the lack of repair to lock gates and canal breaches. This should give you an idea of how water friendly CaRT actually is. Anyone care to make a wild guesstimate at the Water Footprint figures for CaRT?

Here is the rub - in many parts of the world water is a vary scarce resource. Many of those places where water is scarce are rich in oil. In the not to distant future water will become a much more valuable resource than it is today. I don't think that in the future the government will want to leave the valuable liquid resources controlled by CaRT in the hands of a charity. Ultimately in the not to distant future, I would not be surprised if CaRT will be subsumed into the EA or a later incarnation.


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