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Where do these footprints lead?

Jain Irrigation recently became the first company in India to measure its environmental and sustainability benefits and identify ways to reduce its water consumption. This, they plan to do it with IFC, a member of World Bank Group. It will be the first company to measure its water footprint

This news seemed interesting for the fact that not many of us in the corporate world or as individuals have spared a thought about the consumption equation of the products and services that we consume. Every single activity today requires processes and production techniques which involve the use of water at some or all its stages. The role of water is far too important for us to not think of it from a consumption view point, as it becomes dearer and less available with each passing year. And for professionals attempting to manage water resources, their practice ain’t any correct without accounting for this! 

In their pioneering work “Globalization of Water: Sharing the Planet's Freshwater Resources “ on virtual water use and related concept of water footprint, Arjen Hoekstra and Ashok Chapagain explain in detail the relation between globalization and sustainable water management. It explains how most of the water that gets used in the production processes impacts the water balance and has remained unaccounted for, by researchers.

The water footprint of an individual, community or business is defined as the total volume of freshwater that is used to produce the goods and services consumed by the individual or community or produced by the business. This definition is stated by which is the site of the Water Footprint Network since its launch in 2008. (The website was originally set up by Prof. Arjen Y. Hoekstra and Dr. Ashok K. Chapagain at UNESCO-IHE in 2004. Currently the website is hosted and maintained by the University of Twente, the Netherlands.)

As I thought of explaining it in further details, I glanced through the highly visual and descriptive presentation given by Prof. Hoekstra himself. I list here some of the slides that may be exciting enough for the folks to pay attention to water footprint and learn more about it!

 The following illustrations show the volume of fresh water used to produce the product, summed over the various steps of the production chain.












And finally, when we know that there does seem to be a substantial water consumption in all these products, a snapshot of what the determinants of the water footprint are. Complete presentation here.



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