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Downsizing our Water Footprint

Marga Robesin

elni Review 2012, Issue 2,  pp. 63-67.

884 million people are without adequate access to clean drinking water and 2.6 billion people lack access to basic sanitary services. Due to preventable water and sanitation-related diseases an average of 5.000 children dies each day. This is not only caused by the absence of local adequate water infrastructure, but also by regional water scarcity. In the near future the problem of water scarcity will even increase in several regions of the world because of factors like a growing world population and climate change. How can we stop this fatal trend?
Left aside the need for a better water infrastructure and other measures to improve access to clean drinking water and sanitary services, the global water demand needs to be reduced. Not only for the sake of people, but also for the protection of ecosystems and biodiversity. Using water saving showerheads in our households is not enough to achieve substantial water use reduction. In the past decade scientists have developed methods to calculate our water footprint in the world. In 2011 the Global Standard for Water Footprint Assessment, developed by the Water Footprint Network (WFN) was published. It shows that the major part of our water footprint (WF) consists of water that is used for the production of our food and other products we consume. Famous examples are the 15.000 litres water needed to produce one kg beef or the fact that 140 litres water are used for the production of one (Dutch) cup of coffee. 
Reduction of humanity's water footprint is urgently needed in order to keep water use within the boundaries of our planet. This article intends to give a short overview of current discussions on the question how to achieve substantial water footprint reduction, focussing in particular on certification and labelling.

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