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IETC held a Workshop on Water Footprint
Decline of freshwater availability in terms of quantity as well as quality has become a serious issue all around the world. In many cases, such freshwater problems are caused by water consumption and pollution for mankind’s activities for products and services.. Since the globalization has boosted the cross-border trades of products and services, local water problems have changed into the global ones across the hydrological boundaries; consumption of products in an area often leads to water stress and water environment in different areas through the Virtual Water trade.
The water footprint has been proposed as an indicator to visualize the direct and indirect water use of products and services, taking consequent water pollutions into consideration. While various calculation methodologies of water footprints from different perspectives have been proposed, ISO has commenced the process of standardization of water footprint accounting.
Applying the water footprint concept has the potential to provide an innovative tool to enhance water efficiency and water quality among potential competing uses, and drive governments, businesses and consumers to implement measures to improve environmental performance and make more informed decisions about water-intensive investments.
Recognizing the potential of the concept and needs for further development of water footprint methodologies, UNEP has launched a project entitled “Water Footprint, Neutrality and Efficiency (WaFNE)” in 2009. The project entails the refinement of water footprint accounting methodologies and related concepts, and pilot applications of the associated methodologies and tools in selected geographical areas and industrial sectors.
On 1-3 June 2010, UNEP IETC held a Consultative Workshop on Water Footprint, Neutrality and Efficiency in Osaka, Japan. GEC co-organized the workshop as its support activity to UNEP IETC. Experts from Water Footprint Network, an organization developing and promoting water footprint concept, the convener of ISO Working Group on Water Footprint, representatives from Sri Lanka, Tunisia and Vietnam were invited to the workshop to review the progress on the WaFNE project, including refinement of water footprint methodologies and tools, to discuss merits and challenges for wider applications of the water footprint concepts particularly in developing countries. GEC representative presented the summary of their survey and review on the water footprint from current Japanese perspectives.
In addition, an open dialogue session for public and private sectors in Japan on 3 June. In the session, the concept of water footprint and its applications, corporate initiative, potentials and challenges, and the updates of ISO process on water footprint were introduced by the invited panelists to audiences from public and private sectors, NGOs, civil society group and mass media. Following the presentations, the panelists ansnwered some key questions raised by audiences such as “What is the meaning and objective of water footprint accounting?”, “Water footprint should be applied for protecting water environment”.
This three-year water footprint project is being implemented by UNEP’s three units, namely IETC, Sustainable Consumption and Production Branch (Paris) and UNEP Finance Initiative (Geneva) in collaboration with various partners and networks with government, industries and practitioners.
【What is water footprint?】
In the case of a product, the water footprint is the volume of freshwater consumption and pollution directly and indirectly over its complete production and supply chains, including cultivation and production of raw materials, processing, manufacturing, transportation, distribution and consumption.
According to the definition by Water Footprint Network, the total water footprint consists with three components. “Blue water footprint” refers to loss of surface water and groundwater, which happens when water is incorporated into products, evaporates and returns to different catchment areas or the sea. “Green water footprint” refers to loss of rainwater stored in the soil as soil moisture. “Grey water footprint” refers to pollution defined as the volume of water required to assimilating the load of pollutants based on existing ambient water quality standards.
For example, if the direct water consumption of a cup of coffee is 125 ml, water has been used for cultivating coffee trees and processing coffee beans, accordingly the total water footprint during the whole supply chains can be calculated to 140 liters of water. The 140 liters of water is calculated by summing the green and blue water footprint components and is derived from global average data from the time period 1997-2001 (FAOSTAT Database, faostat.fao.org).
（Concept of Water Footprint）
For more information on the Water Footprint, please refer to the following website.
-Water Footprint Network