Do You Know Your Water Footprint?

As you know or are becoming fast aware of, water footprints measure the total amount of water it takes for a company to manufacture and transport a product, or for a city, country, or business to operate.  Calculating water footprints can help businesses and communities better understand and prepare for the impacts of global water scarcity, and it can also cause headaches among scientists and policy makers as they assess its impact on the planet.

Here are some interesting fact and figures about water footprints:

• The production of 2 pounds of beef requires 4,227 gallons of water

• The production of one cup of coffee requires 532 gallons of water

• It takes 776 gallons of water to make a cotton shirt

• The U.S. has the biggest water footprint per capita, at 766,098 gallons per person each year

• The global average water footprint is 1,240 gallons per person each year

• The four major direct factors determining the water footprint of a country are:

• Volume of consumption (related to the gross national income)

• Consumption pattern (e.g. high versus low meat consumption)

• Climate (growth conditions)

• Agricultural practices (water use efficiency)

To calculate your individual or corporate water footprint, go to The Water Footprint website.

Like other measurements that corporations have used to help promote their environmental stewardship, companies are beginning to embrace water footprints.  One such example was beer giant SABMiller, which was one of the first to use a water footprint.  They unveiled their detailed corporate water footprint plan at the 2010 World Water Week conference in Stockholm, Sweden.

Reducing the water footprint is becoming a key part of the environmental strategy of more and more businesses, just like reducing the carbon footprint.  Addressing the issues of freshwater scarcity and pollution may be in the best interest of your corporate social responsibility.

What are you or your company doing to reduce its water footprint?