, Volume 21, Issue 1, pp 35-48
Date: 27 Jun 2006

Water footprints of nations: Water use by people as a function of their consumption pattern

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Abstract

The water footprint shows the extent of water use in relation to consumption of people. The water footprint of a country is defined as the volume of water needed for the production of the goods and services consumed by the inhabitants of the country. The internal water footprint is the volume of water used from domestic water resources; the external water footprint is the volume of water used in other countries to produce goods and services imported and consumed by the inhabitants of the country. The study calculates the water footprint for each nation of the world for the period 1997–2001. The USA appears to have an average water footprint of 2480,m3/cap/yr, while China has an average footprint of 700,m3/cap/yr. The global average water footprint is 1240,m3/cap/yr. The four major direct factors determining the water footprint of a country are: volume of consumption (related to the gross national income); consumption pattern (e.g. high versus low meat consumption); climate (growth conditions); and agricultural practice (water use efficiency).