Newsletter April 2017




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Executive Director’s note

This year’s World Water Day asked us how we can reduce, reuse and recycle wastewater and improve water quality. To mark it, we highlighted how, while cleaning and reusing wastewater will help alleviate this problem, it is also vital that we reduce the amount of water we pollute in the first place.

We selected five industrial products that are commonly used in packaging and looked into how much water pollution is generated when packaging is produced. We found that the contribution to wastewater is significant. For example, the grey water footprint (which indicates pollution) generated by the production of plastic packaging is up to 330 billion cubic metres per year. That is equivalent to 330,000 Empire State Buildings full of water, or more than enough to supply China with domestic water for six months.


Data: Water Footprint Network and referenced materials (2); Icons: Water Footprint Network & Creative Commons License; Source credit: Water Footprint Network.

By looking at the amount of waste generated by several countries and comparing that to their recycling rates, we can see on the one hand that some countries, such as the USA, Canada, the UK and Brazil, produce a lot of waste that is not recycled. On the other hand, Slovenia and South Korea have the highest levels of recycling for these materials. The results serve to demonstrate that we could all do far more as good global citizens to significantly reduce wastewater by reducing our packaging and by increasing our recycling and saving costs. In some cases, this could actually have a direct positive impact on countries that have severe water pollution problems, such as China. Read the full story and see all of the infographics here.
Reducing, reusing and recycling wastewater is one of many initiatives we must take to transform global water management and reduce global water scarcity. This need is pressing as climate change diminishes the amount of available fresh water in many regions of the world. Understanding the likely impact of increasing water scarcity and drought on food security and on our economies is vital.
As part of our work with the IMPREX project, funded by EU Horizon 2020, we have analysed some of the impacts that climate change may have on Europe’s food supplies, including staples such as soybeans, coffee or rice. Because many of the goods consumed by European citizens are produced abroad, its economy is dependent on water resources elsewhere in the world. By mapping Europe’s global water demand and assessing how water scarcity and drought may disrupt supplies of key food crops that it imports, we can reveal where vulnerabilities lie.
We will launch the first of two studies on this issue during a press conference at the European Geosciences Union (EGU) General Assembly later this month and, along with our IMPREX project partners, will explore its implications at several sessions during the event.

Dr. Christopher Briggs, Executive Director, Water Footprint Network







Upcoming Events

    1st International Virtual Water Conference, Iran, April 30th 2017
    An expert panel will present various considerations for discussion on virtual water trade, food security and sustainable water governance during this conference. Water Footprint Network’s Science Director, Dr. Ashok Chapagain, will join the panel via video conference and will present the concept of virtual water trade on a national level.
    The full programme will be available soon on our facebook page.

    Sessions @ EGU General Assembly, Vienna, Austria, 23rd – 28th April 2017

    Wednesday, 26th April at 11:00 – 12:00: Dr. Ertug Ercin will launch our first report for the IMPREX project at a press conference entitled “Food security: how extreme weather and other hazards affect what we drink and eat”. If you cannot make it to Vienna, you can still watch the press conference live via webstream, and ask questions to panelists. Read more about the press conference here.


    Wednesday, 26th April at 13:50: Climate change consultant at the UK Met Office, Felicity Liggins, will present an abstract by Dr. Ercin and other IMPREX project partners, “Improving Predictions and Management of Hydrological Extremes” (B.J.J.M. van den Hurk et al.) in a PICO session entitled “Climate Services - Underpinning Science”.

    Thursday, 27th April at 13:30 – 15:00: Water Footprint Network and partners will convene a PICO session entitled “Hydrological Sciences and Water Footprint Assessment for monitoring and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals that will explore how water footprinting can be used for monitoring and reaching the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It will examine how Water Footprint Assessment can help measure various SDG targets and how it can guide policy and action towards meeting them. Water Footprint Network’s Daniel Chico, will present one paper on “How a full value-chain Water Footprint Assessment can help inform decisions in corporate sustainability strategies” and another on “Water footprint as an indicator of agricultural productivity in African countries” during this session.
    Friday, 28th April 2017 at 09:15: Dr. Ertug Ercin will give an oral presentation on “Dependencies of Europe’s economy on water resources outside its borders and its vulnerability to weather extremes”. This will be part of a session entitled “From sub-seasonal forecasting to climate projections: predicting hydrologic extremes and servicing water managers.

    Find out more about the EGU General Assembly 2017 here.

    Session @ BCI Global Cotton Conference, Berlin, Germany 17th – 18th May 2017
    Water Footprint Network’s Ruth Mathews will lead a session entitled “Implementing Water Stewardship in Cotton Production” at the first Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) 2017 Global Cotton Conference, an event that aims to shape a more sustainable future for the cotton industry. The session will consider three perspectives (environmental, social and economic) related to using freshwater resources sustainably in cotton production. Implementation of those three ways to look at water stewardship at the farm level will be discussed.
    Read the agenda here and register here.
    Keynote speaker @ 2nd Summit of Food and Beverages, Ecuador,  June 7th 2017

    Organised by Seminarium and the National Association of Food and Beverage Manufacturers, this event aims to share success stories in which modern business models or strategies have been applied to improve the competitiveness of the Agro Food sector with a focus on products with high added value. Dr. Christopher Briggs has been invited as a keynote speaker and will demonstrate how Ecuador's food and beverage industry can improve water management and reduce its water footprint, while maintaining a competitive advantage.

    Discussions @ EUSalt Conference ‘Innovation for the Circular Economy’, Brussels, 14:00 to 17:30, 27th June 2017
    Water Footprint Network will join an ’Innovation Speed-talk’ and panel discussions related to water reuse at the European Salt Producers’ Association Conference, which intends to encourage dialogue with a diverse audience on policies relevant to the salt industry. ‘Innovation for the Circular Economy’ aims to reflect on industry’s innovative potential and on opportunities that the circular economy brings. In line with this, it will encourage exchange on the various innovation opportunities that can inspire businesses to rethink themselves. Everyone is welcome to join the conference.
    Read the programme here.
    Register here.
    Presentation @ UNEP-DHI Webinar: Source-to-Sea, 15:00 CEST, 15th August 2017

    Water Footprint Network will present at 'Overviews and approaches to Source-to-Sea’ as part of a UNEP-DHI webinar series that explores cross-disciplinary connections in water management to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goal SDG6 on freshwater and SDG14 on oceans.

    The webinar series aims to highlight the importance of understanding the cross-disciplinary connections to achieve these two goals, the relationships between them in the watershed and ocean and the value of integrating efforts to reduce negative effects and maximize potential benefits, where feasible. It will frame the issues and policy options, review some of the most widely used management approaches and explore how they could better be applied to take account of the Source-to-Sea continuum.

    More information about each webinar and registration details will follow soon.
    Find out more here.
    Events @ Stockholm World Water Week, Stockholm City Conference Centre, 27th August – 1st September 2017

    , Wednesday 30th August, 09:00-10:30: Water Footprint Network and the C&A Foundation will convene a session entitled “Improving our waters: innovation in the textile supply chain industry” at this year’s World Water Week event, which will focus on water and waste.
    The textile industry is globally ranked as the second largest polluter after the oil industry. A large share of that pollution ends up in water, which makes it unfit for other uses and leads to severe consequences on human health and ecosystems. This session will present state of the art initiatives and highlight innovations transforming the textile industry’s impact on the quality of water resources. Case studies will describe the sector’s sustainability journey and inspire by means of interactive discussion on the many lessons learned. It will offer valuable insights for all sectors interested in water stewardship.
    Oral presentations:

    Water Footprint Assessment as a policy tool for pollution regulations

    As part of the seminar “Opportunities and limits to water pollution regulations”, Water Footprint Network will explore how our work with the UK Environment Agency showed how Water Footprint Assessment can provide a basis for regulatory reform at the catchment level.

    From field to fashion: examining textile’s grey water footprint

    As part of the seminar “Water and Waste Management: The case of the textile industry”, Water Footprint Network will present how Water Footprint Assessment of polyester and viscose fibres, field cotton and washing, dyeing and finishing mills shows how a significant part of the textile industry’s water footprint is a result of water pollution. We will explore how, adopting better practices and processes, the industry can contribute to the improvement of water quality.
    Read the Stockholm World Water Week programme here.
    Registration will open soon.
    Amsterdam International Water Week 30th October - 3rd November 2017
    Water Footprint Network is helping to organise this year’s AIWW, which aims to address water challenges faced by cities, water utilities and industry and frame them in the context of the emerging themes of resilience and the circular economy. It plans to do so by ‘matching’ a range of challenges with suitable international experts, solutions providers and leaders in order to encourage dialogue that will enrich knowledge and identify actual breakthrough opportunities to help each case advance towards solutions.
    Find out more here.




Recent Events

    Stakeholder Workshop on the Strategy on adaptation to climate change, Brussels, Belgium, 5th April 2017
    Water Footprint Network’s Dr. Ertg Ercin attended this workshop, organised by DG Climate Action. It is part of the current evaluation of The EU Strategy on Adaptation to Climate Change, which was adopted by the European Commission in 2013. During this workshop, the strategy was presented and stakeholders gave their views on its implementation in order to guide the development of the evaluation.
    Nestle Creating Shared Value stakeholder workshop, London March 30th - 31st 2017
    Dr. Christopher Briggs and Ruth Mathews joined this workshop which was attended by Nestle’s CEO, Mark Schneider, and a large variety of organisations. The aim was to deepen understanding of Nestlé's role in stimulating collective action to meet the Sustainable Development Goals.
    WEBINAR: 'How to undertake a Water Footprint Assessment and disclose to CDP' at 10.00 CET and 17.00 CET, 28th March 2017

    To support companies interested in responding to CDP water questionnaire, Water Footprint Network and CDP presented how Water Footprint Network’s tools, data and services can help companies reporting on water.

    Listen to the webinar here.
    Read the presentation here.







Water Footprint Network News

    Dr. Ertug Ercin received an honorary award for his contribution to a seminar on World Water Day entitled “Wastewater management under the Sustainable Development Goals”, organised by Ankara University and the Turkish Chamber of Environmental Engineers. The seminar was part of a high-level meeting and was attended by the director of Environmental Protection (Ministry of Environment), Ankara University’s Deputy Dean, the Deputy Head of the UNDP in Turkey and university professors.  

    Several media outlets cited statistics from WaterStat this month: Geo (France) in ‘Ces milliers de litres d'eau que l'on consomme sans forcément le savoir’; Agence Science Presse in ‘4500 litres d'eau dans mon steak ? Vrai’; and Le Devior in ‘40 litres d’eau dans votre tranche de pain’. Business World (India) featured our work with Tata in ‘Encouraging Water Stewardship’.




Partner News

    • A warm welcome to two new partners of Water Footprint Network, producer of sustainable vegetables in Spain, and the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (AUTH) in Greece. Almegreen equips its greenhouses with the most recent technologies. Its controlled irrigation system prevents water waste and has helped the company reduce its water use by 20%. Academics at AUTH are widely recognized for their research into water resources management. By joining our Network, the university aims to broaden understanding of the need to apply sustainable and rational water resources management amongst students and broader society.
    • The Mexican Institute of Water Technology (IMTA) launched a new book, ‘Water Footprint in Mexico: analysis and perspectives’ on 22nd March, to mark World Water Day. It is an open source publication and can be downloaded here (in Spanish). Its publication is part of an initiative to stimulate debate on wise water use in Mexico and to raise awareness that water governance is an essential ingredient for the country’s development. The foreword is written by Professor Arjen Hoekstra, founder of the water footprint concept, and Water Footprint Network’s Dr. Ashok Chapagain.
    Watch the video presentations by Dr. Christopher Briggs and Dr. Chapagain at the book launch, which took place at the XXIV Annual Congress of the Mexican Hydraulics Association.

    Read more here. Lea sobre esto en español aquí. Lea más sobre el libro de Javier Lambarri Beléndez en este blog.
    • GRACE Communications Foundation’s Water Footprint Calculator has been nominated for a People's Voice Webby Award! Please support them by casting your vote here.

    • Arjen Hoeksta was interviewed by the South China Morning Post for ‘Tapping into Hong Kong’s water wastage: how an app aims to expose the city’s global footprint’. The article discusses the impact of Hong Kong’s indirect water consumption and cites the development of a new water footprint calculator by The University of Hong Kong’s Jockey Club Water Initiative on Sustainability and Engagement. Designed as a mobile app, it will include 90 different restaurant dishes and allow users to find out a certain food item’s water footprint.





    Dalin, C., Wada, Y., Kastner, T., Puma, M. J.. (2017) Groundwater depletion embedded in international food trade, published in Nature 543, 700–704, doi:10.1038/nature21403.
    International trade is increasingly transporting 'hidden' resources and environmental factors from one country to another. For example, the water used to produce a spear of asparagus eaten in London might come from irrigation in South America. Similarly, pollution generated in China might be traceable to consumer demand in the United States. Carole Dalin et al. now extend this idea to the non-renewable groundwater that is consumed for agricultural trade. They find that 11 per cent of groundwater extraction is linked to agricultural trade, with Pakistan, the United States and India accounting for two-thirds of the global totals. The research reveals the degree to which food consumption in one country can lead to groundwater depletion in others, highlighting the need to better consider issues of sustainability and equity in the international food trade.
    Weiming Chena,b, Sanmang Wua,b, Yalin Leia,b, Shantong Lica (2017) Virtual water export and import in china’s foreign trade: A quantification using input-output tables of China from 2000 to 2012 was published by Elsevier B.V. in Science Direct, Doi: 10.1016 j.resconrec.2017.02.017.

    This paper examines the destination of virtual water export and sources of import for each sector in China. It assesses why there is a huge difference between the volume of virtual water export and import between China and different regions. It finds that the volume of China’s virtual water export and import doubled between 2000 to 2012 and that China has net exported large amounts of virtual water to developed areas and net imported from emerging economies and resource-oriented regions. It proposes that China’s foreign trade structure needs to be adjusted to relieve the water shortage by the following methods. The first is to appropriately lower the proportion of products exported by certain sectors that export a large proportion of virtual water. The second is to enlarge the proportion of products exported that have low water consumption levels, such as the service industry. The third is to make full use of the water saving impacts of importing goods and services.
    Christ, K. L., Burritt R. L., (2017) Water Management Accounting: A Framework for Corporate Practice was published by Elsevier in Science Direct doi: 10.1016/j.jclepro.2017.03.147.
    This is the first paper to develop a corporate water management accounting framework in context of environmental management accounting. The paper identifies that relevant water accounting information for decision making is lacking in current literature and water initiatives, which focus on external water reporting. In the light of this, the strengths and weaknesses of water initiatives are assessed and a new framework developed for Water Management Accounting. Based on both the literature and gaps in current water initiatives, the paper concludes with a set of specific research issues in corporate water accounting settings along with ways in which water accounting researchers can contribute to the future management of water by businesses.
    Meneses, Y. E., Stratton J., Flores, R.A., (2017) Water reconditioning and reuse in the food processing industry: Current situation and challenges was published by Elsevier in Science Direct doi: 10.1016/j.tifs.2016.12.008.
    This paper aims to highlight the challenges and opportunities that water conservation initiatives offer, in order to produce more food with less water. Food processing is a key component of the food supply chain and its water footprint is of great consideration, not only because of the high-quality water used in the manufacturing of products but also for the significant volumes of pollutant wastewater generated. It finds that, although different food sectors produce wastewater of different qualities, for all cases water reconditioning and reuse offer opportunities to reduce water consumption and to contribute to a better water management in the food processing industry.








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