Pressure on water resources, and scarcity in some regions of the globe, mean clients and consumers are increasingly interested in an organisation’s water footprint, usage and impacts.

What is a water footprint?

A water footprint is the amount of water a business, community or nation uses, both directly and indirectly. It encompasses, and supersedes, simpler measures of water use – the amount of water used for a given task.

What does it include?

A water footprint consists of three components:

  1. Blue water – fresh water in lakes, rivers, aquifers.
  2. Green water – water from rainwater stored in soil.
  3. Grey water – polluted water.

Using water sustainably means using blue water wisely and avoiding creating grey water. Water pollution is a real threat to the natural environment, wildlife and human health.

Water Management

A business’s water footprint, along with the impact on this water, is a growing concern for stakeholders, consumers and many international organisations. Agriculture is the world’s biggest consumer of water, both blue and green, accounting for some 70%.

Company Footprint

A corporate water footprint is defined as the total volume of freshwater that is used directly or indirectly to run and support a business. It is the total volume of water use associated with the use of the business outputs. The water footprint of a business consists of water used for producing/manufacturing, or for supporting activities and the indirect water use in a producer’s supply chain.

Product Footprint

The water footprint of a specific product is the total volume of freshwater used to produce the product, summed over the various steps of the production chain. The water footprint of a product refers not only to the total volume of water used, it also refers to where and when the water is used.

Agriculture Impact

As pressure on water resources grows. All those involved in the agriculture industry need to be aware of their consumption, to establish a true measure of their water footprints and develop management plans to control, if not reduce, water consumption in the future.

Managing and Verifying Consumption

European Water Stewardship (EWS) works in close coordination with the World Water Stewardship, to encourage business and agriculture to become water stewards, by assessing, acting and improving the way they use and manage water in a holistic way. Amongst the tools provided, is a certification process, the EWS standard, which allows users to not only mitigate their physical, regulatory and reputational risks but also to share their journey on the way to stewardship with investors, consumers and their communities.

ISO is also developing ISO14046, a new standard for water footprint verfication, that includes consistent tools for measuring water usage in addition to management systems and industry best processes and practices. This ISO standard will be linked to the Water Footprint Network’s Global Water Footprint Standard, which can be applied for different sorts of assessment, including products and companies.

Assessment and Certification

SGS provides assessment services and certification based on both the European and World Water Stewardship standards. We conduct water footprint calculations and sediment runoff prevention studies. In addition, we can provide field preparation and fertility management, as well as an extensive international network for water, manure, waste and soil testing and analysis.

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For further information, please contact:

Bruno Widmer
Agriculture Audit & Certification
SGS Geneva
1 places des alpes
1211 Geneva
t: + 41 22 739 94 68