Education and Meanings

Water Footprint: what it is, concepts and curiosities

With the great growth of the world population, it is not new that the different environmental impacts on the planet are talked about. The exaggerated use of water resources is a subject that has been much discussed in an attempt to reduce the consumption of water used both in daily activities, such as for drinking, cooking and washing, as well as in the production of food, paper, clothing , etc.

According to Water FootPrint, the non-profit organization that promotes studies on the consumption of water resources, to produce a kilo of beef, for example, it takes about 15 thousand liters of water (93% green, 4% blue, 3% of the water footprint), on the other hand, to produce a kilo of sugar, 1,500 liters of water are needed.


The water footprint is a prelude to the management of water resources that measures the total volume of fresh water (suitable for drinking) used in human consumption and in agricultural and industrial production.

This tool allows us to understand the degree of need for water throughout the entire production chain and helps public and private initiatives, as well as society, to measure how much it contributes to water scarcity and environmental deterioration in the planet’s hydrographic basins whole.

See here everything about Conscious Consumption .


There are three types of water footprint; in blue, green and gray. They are classified according to their water source, for example:

  • Blue water footprint: is associated with the withdrawal of water from rivers, underground reservoirs, water bodies, and which is used for the production of a good.
  • Green water footprint: depicts water from rains that is concentrated in the soil. This water is essentially related to plants and is removed via evaporation and transpiration.
  • Gray water footprint: refers to the volume needed to dilute the pollution generated during the production process and which returns to the system in the form of effluents.


One of the water footprint proposals is to study and understand water from its source in order to ensure the efficient management of this resource. With this, the participation of the public and private authorities in the elaboration of laws and preventive measures that reinforce the best use of water resources and return them clean to nature is essential.

The role of the consumer is also important, especially by adopting actions aimed at acquiring information about the origin of the products they consume, their origin and their means of production.

Thus, in order to make the population more aware of the problems related to water scarcity, Water FootPrint is currently creating a bill that requires to disclose on product packaging the amount of water used in their production.

See here everything about Water Reuse .


When we consume and sell products, we are consuming and selling all the water that was used in its production process. A research project carried out by UNESCO aims to map the water footprint of 132 countries and make its impact on tangible freshwater consumption. This project is intended to illustrate that 86% of the total water footprint per capita is due to food intake and agricultural production.

According to data provided by Water FootPrint, more than 2.7 billion people are affected by water scarcity for at least one month each year. Knowing the amount we spend is essential to reduce the irresponsible use and waste of this important resource, in addition to helping to promote ecological awareness and change conceptions about environmental preservation.


The formula for a nation’s water footprint is obtained through the sum of the volume of water used to generate, inside and outside the country, all the goods and services enjoyed by its residents. But this formula can also be calculated in an individual proportion, so to know the size of your water footprint, just add up the amount of water needed to produce the goods and services we consume on a daily basis.


All food, whether of plant or animal origin, needs water to be produced. Agriculture is an extremely thirsty business that accounts, on average, for 70% of the world’s consumption of the resource.

In general, foods of animal origin require a greater amount of water, as animals, in addition to ingesting it, also need to indirectly consume the water that is used to produce their food. That’s why the ideal would be to prioritize products that come from the earth.

There are foods where water does not even appear on the ingredients’ label, but it was certainly present throughout the production process. An example of this is wheat cultivated to produce refined flour (which uses, on average, 1.8 thousand liters of water per kilogram) and which is the basis for the production of foods such as bread and biscuits.

Chocolate is one of the foods with the most water footprint. For each kilo, approximately 17,000 liters of water are needed throughout the entire chain, starting with cocoa production. Beef also has a high volume of water footprint, around 15 thousand liters of water for each kilo. On the other hand, potatoes need only 290 liters per kilo and bananas consume around 160 liters.


The water footprint concept is closely linked to ecology and sustainability, as it is capable of monitoring the environmental impacts of human production and consumption on the environment.

One of the concerns of the indicator is to expose the direct consumption (when water is used to carry out an action) and, mainly, the indirect one (when water is “acquired” indirectly through the consumption of objects, clothes, food products, etc.). The latter is an expense that often goes unnoticed by people because it is not evident that, to produce a certain product, water resources were used in its production process.

The “hidden” consumption, therefore, makes room for the inconsequential and unnecessary use of fresh water, with the water footprint being a resource that aims to alert and raise awareness of this fact. Thus, it is possible to offer options for the consumer to choose to purchase products that have the lowest water consumption and, consequently, encourage manufacturers to reduce their footprint.

For this, it is necessary that companies are concerned about saving resources during the production process and encouraging the emergence of new technologies capable of allowing reuse and reuse. Individually, each person can also reduce their footprint through sustainable consumption of water and products and services.

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Robert Asprin, APD is a non-dieting Accredited Practicing Dietitian passionate about inspiring positive changes in eating and lifestyle behaviors to help improve health while nurturing relationships with food and body.

Robert Asprin

Robert Asprin, APD is a non-dieting Accredited Practicing Dietitian passionate about inspiring positive changes in eating and lifestyle behaviors to help improve health while nurturing relationships with food and body.

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