Current Affairs


Why in News?

  • Coca Cola last week claimed that the company has reached its global water replenishment goal, which aims to return 100 per cent of the water utilised in manufacturing its product “back to the nature and to communities”.
  • Activists say that Coca Cola that cannot realistically attain water neutrality due to the high water footprint of their end products.
  • The water footprint of the entire supply chain was not calculated by Coca Cola.
  •  Also replenishing an aquifer hundreds of miles away from the point of extraction, as Coca-Cola has often done to “balance” their water use, has no bearing on the health of the local aquifer depleted during bottling operations.
  • Where Coca cola was shutdown the ground water had depleted considerably and was found polluted with cadmium, lead and arsenic from sludge disposed by the local factory.

What is a Water Footprint?

Water footprint is the amount of water you use in and around your home, school or office throughout the day. It includes the water you use directly (e.g., from a tap). It also includes the water it took to produce the food you eat, the products you buy, the energy you consume and even the water you save when you recycle. You may not drink, feel or see this virtual water(indirect), but it actually makes up the majority of your water footprint.


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The Three Water Footprints

Green water footprint is water from precipitation that is stored in the root zone of soil and evaporated, transpired or incorporated by plants. It is particularly relevant for agricultural, horticultural and forestry products.

Blue water footprint is water that has been sourced from surface or groundwater resources and is either evaporated, incorporated into a product or taken from one body of water and returned to another, or returned at a different time. Irrigated agriculture, industry and domestic water use can each have a blue water footprint.

Grey water footprint is the amount of fresh water required to assimilate pollutants to        meet specific water quality standards. The grey water footprint considers point-source pollution discharged to a freshwater resource directly through a pipe or indirectly through runoff or leaching from the soil, impervious surfaces, or other diffuse sources.


The water footprints involved in various diets vary greatly, and much of the variation tends to be associated with levels of meat consumption.



It includes the use of:

  • blue water (rivers, lakes, aquifers)
  • green water (rainfall in crop growth)
  • grey water (water polluted after agricultural, industrial and household use).


Why Do Water Footprints Matter?

  • Globally, the increase is due in part to more people drinking and bathing, but as developing countries like China and India grow more prosperous, more people are consuming more water-intensive food, electricity and consumer goods. This puts pressure on water resources, which is a concern in the arid parts of the world where food is grown, goods are manufactured and water is already in short supply.
  • By the year 2030, experts predict that global demand for water will outstrip supply by 40 percent. Impacts from climate change may increase the likelihood of changes to the water cycle leading to prolonged periods of drought (and, conversely, more extreme rainfall). Reduced water supplies could add to water insecurity.
  • Even Water Footprint is increased by the internet data you consume. Data Centres use cooling water, but the electricity used leaves a greater footprint.

How Footprint helps?

  • Water footprints help individuals, businesses and countries because they reveal water use patterns, from the individual level all the way to the national level.
  • They shine a light on the water used in all the processes involved in manufacturing and producing our goods and services.
  • A water footprint also accounts for the amount of water contaminated during manufacturing and production because that water is made unusable and is, essentially, taken out of the system.
  • The water footprint gives everyone – from individuals to business managers to public officials – a solid frame of reference that helps us all be more efficient and sustainable with our water use and appreciate the role of water in our lives.
  • The water footprint tells us how much water is used, but the impact of changes to a water footprint depends entirely on where water is taken from and when.
  • A water footprint increasing in an area where water is plentiful is unlikely to have an adverse effect on society or the environment. However, if that growth occurs in an area already experiencing water scarcity, then serious problems could result.

Such water problems might include:


  • the drying of river
  • the destruction of habitats and livelihoods
  • the extinction of species
  • changes to agricultural prices, supplies and local economies.


National water footprint

A nation’s water footprint can be viewed from two perspectives: production and consumption.

The water footprint of production is the amount of local water resources that are used to produce goods and services within the country.

We can also view the water footprint from the perspective of consumption. In this case, the water footprint is calculated for all the goods and services that are consumed by the people living in a country.


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Together, the water footprint of production and consumption tell an important story about a nation’s water use and dependence on external water resources, which can be used to help governments manage their water resources as well as understand the links between their economic development, food security and international trade relations and water.


The water footprints of the products consumed depends on the circumstances in the places of origin. For example, very low agricultural yields and associated large water footprints per unit of harvested crop in some developing countries explains why they can have a relatively large water footprint of national consumption.


Nation annual water footprint
China 1,071 m
India 1,089 m
United States 2,842 m



Global pressure on our freshwater resources is increasing, mainly through changes to population and income levels, which have increased the demand for water-intensive products such as meat, sugar and cotton.


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Criticism of this concept

  •  Insufficient consideration of consequences of proposed water saving policies to farm households.
  •   Insufficient consideration of regional water scarcity- For example, the 140 litres required for coffee production for one cup  might be of no harm to water resources if its cultivation occurs mainly in humid areas, but could be damaging in more arid regions. Other factors such as hydrology, climate, geology, topography, population and demographics should also be taken into account.
  • It doesn’t account for the Environmental water use which is allocated by Governments. Such environmental water use is for keeping streams flowing, maintaining aquatic and riparian habitats, keeping wetlands wet, etc.

Explain, with example, the concept of Water Footprint concept and what are its criticisms?

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