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Water is not only used in the domestic context, but also in agriculture and industry in the production of commercial goods, from food to paper. The water footprint is an indicator of freshwater use that looks at both direct and indirect use of water by a consumer or producer. The water footprint of an individual, community or business is defined as the total volume of freshwater that is used to produce the goods and services consumed by the individual or community or produced by the business.
The Water Footprint of Modern Consumer Society shows how the water footprint concept can be used to quantify and map the water use behind consumption and how it can guide reduction of water use to a sustainable level. With a number of case studies, it illustrates water use along supply chains and that water consumption at one place is often linked to water use at another. For example, it is calculated that it takes 15,000 litres of water to produce 1 kg of beef, or 8,000 litres of water to produce a pair of jeans. The Water Footprint of Modern Consumer Society shows that imports of water-intensive products can highly benefit water-scarce countries, but also that this creates a dependency on foreign water resources.
The Water Footprint of Modern Consumer Society demonstrates how water-scarce regions sometimes, nevertheless, use lots of water for making export products. It raises the issue of sustainable consumption: how can consumers, businesses and governments get involved in reducing the water footprints of final consumer goods?
1. How all water problems relate to what we consume
2. Why water has become a global resource
3. Limits to water use
4. Drinking sugar: The water footprint of a soft drink
5. Living on bread and water: The water footprint of wheat, bread and pasta
6. Trading rice, trading water: The water footprint of rice
7. Burning water: The water footprint of energy
8. Bringing some flowers: The overseas water footprint of flowers
9. Reading water: The water footprint of paper
10. The question of water for food, fuel or fibre
11. The meat versus vegetarian diet from a water perspective
12. India: the water efficiency paradox
13. Indonesia: Java's survival by import
14. Kenya: national water scarcity in relation to export
15. Central Asia: exporting cotton, importing disaster
16. The Netherlands: how sustainable is national consumption?
17. The footprint family: ecological, carbon and water footprint
18. Water in life cycle assessment
19. Product transparency
20. Getting trade right
21. Is it possible to become water neutral?
22. Who is responsible?
Arjen Hoekstra is Professor in Multidisciplinary Water Management at the University of Twente, the Netherlands, and Scientific Director of the global Water Footprint Network. He specialises in integrated water resources planning and management, river basin management, policy analysis, and systems analysis.