The Water Footprint Network is an international organisation whose mission is to analyse the direct and indirect impact of human consumption on water resources in order to encourage national and business policies which propitiate more sustainable water management. Since February 2010, the CENTA Foundation has been part of this network, as a sponsoring partner, as well as being accredited as an auditor for the calculation of water footprints.
This novel concept was created in order to provide an indicator that would relate water to public consumption. The water footprint of a product, then, is defined as the volume of water used in its production, while the water footprint of an individual, community or company refers to the total volume of water used in the production of all of the goods and services consumed by that person, community or company. The calculation of this indicator can be extrapolated to a country. The concept was first introduced in 2002 by Professor Arjen Y. Hoekstra, the scientific director of the Network.
The water footprint of a product depends both on the type and the origin of the raw materials used. And so, 1 kg of sugar may have a different footprint depending on whether it comes from sugar beet or sugar cane, but even 1 kg of sugar from sugar cane can have a different footprint depending on where it was cultivated. This is the factor that could make a significant contribution to optimising the use of water resources at individual, business and regional level (each country should produce of those products which offer a competitive advantage as regards the water footprint).
The analysis of the water footprint offers much more information than the traditional indicators, which are based mainly on production. The methodology used for this innovative calculation incorporates the entire production process of goods and services, including distribution. In this way, the analysis of the indicator helps better to understand issues such as water shortage or contamination.
Among the leading promoters of the Water Footprint Network are the UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education, the International Finance Corporation (of the World Bank Group), the University of Twente and the WWF, and others.