Water Footprint and Food Products

  • Ignacio CazcarroEmail author
  • Rosa Duarte
  • Julio Sánchez-Chóliz
Part of the Environmental Footprints and Eco-design of Products and Processes book series (EFEPP)


Water footprint (WF) analysis has been quite extensive in characterizing water contents in crops and animal products, which translated into processed products it covers an important spectrum of food products. The food industry then also interacts as supplier of goods and as demander of other inputs with many other sectors, e.g. notably agriculture and distribution sectors, but also with other less known sectors, such as the chemical sector, energy sector, etc. affecting its overall role in the economy. This agri-food activity becomes important (e.g. in several regions of Spain being the second higher in GDP after sectors related to the automobile industry), but also frequently due to its higher representativeness in employment and exports than other industrial sectors, etc. For example, in the EU the Agri-food sector accounts for more than 7% of the overall exports according to data of the most recent years. This is based mostly on crops such as cereals, but also transformed food industry products such as olive oil, wine, pasta, dairy products, meats, and processed products in general. In other regions we may see e.g. the important role of the US as importer, but also major exporter of grains, etc., the exporting role of India in milk (and ultimately then of water through these processes), or the high dependency of food (and hence WF from products abroad) of China. If all these processes are well captured with specific supply chains/process analysis, also studies on extended environmental input-output (IO) models complement such information by helping identifying the final sector of export or of distribution to the households, e.g. to what extent WFs occur from the consumption of wholesale or retail trade, or from activities such as hotels and restaurants. All these insights can be obtained from local to global models, and with more or less detail in terms of products and sectors depending on the database used. We analyze these issues, providing as well general figures on the food products water footprint globally, but also going down into nations or regions. In that regard, we highlight the interest of some global food supply chains, both at global level and local level, its environmental relevance and the differences in estimations obtained from the different analytical methods. Our results show the high sectoral heterogeneity from the point of view of water uses and water footprint in the agro-food system and they also confirm the great differences that can arise with the level of disaggregation used, proving again that it is better more rather than less disaggregation in environmental information.


Water footprint Crops to food supply chains Food products Producer and consumer perspectives 



The authors acknowledge financial support from the projects ECO2016-74940-P and ECO2013-41353-P granted by the Spanish Ministry of Education and Science; as well as the financial support from Consolited Group S10 and Reference Group S40-17R granted by the Aragonese Government (DGA) and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ignacio Cazcarro
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Rosa Duarte
    • 3
  • Julio Sánchez-Chóliz
    • 3
  1. 1.ARAID (Aragonese Agency for Research and Development), Department of Economic AnalysisAgrifood Institute of Aragon (IA2), University of ZaragozaSaragossaSpain
  2. 2.BC3-Basque Centre for Climate Change – Klima Aldaketa IkergaiBilbaoSpain
  3. 3.Faculty of Business, Department of Economic AnalysisAgrifood Institute of Aragon (IA2), University of Zaragoza & EconomicsSaragossaSpain

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