Newsletter October 2017




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Towards a restart of the Water Footprint

We are in a vacuum. The ‘old’ Water Footprint Network (WFN) Foundation has formally been declared bankrupt on 11 September, after a long struggle to maintain financial stability and lessen the weight of increasing debt to both creditors and staff. A trustee has been nominated by the court to manage the bankruptcy for the organisation, close down its operations and secure any available funds in order to pay creditors. The good news is that a number of water professionals have taken the initiative to make a fresh restart. Details will be made public as soon as the legal and institutional arrangements have been made.

Meanwhile, the Water Footprint Research Alliance will intensify its efforts and continue to advance research, education, awareness raising, capacity building, applications, outreach and exchange in the field of Water Footprint Assessment. The Alliance has been hosted by the ‘old’ WFN Foundation since its inception. After the launch of the new Water Footprint Network, the activities of the Water Footprint Research Alliance will be brought under the umbrella of the new network. For now, the Alliance, will keep the website alive, with the support from University of Twente, and with this newsletter we hope to keep you informed about continuing activities in the field.

Prof. dr Arjen Hoekstra & Prof. dr Ashok Chapagain
Co-chairs of the Water Footprint Research Alliance







Upcoming Events


    E-learning course:  Water Footprint (groundwater), 16th October – 16th November 2017

    The International Center for Subterranean Hydrology (FCIHS) is organising an online water footprint training course in Spanish, in collaboration with the Botin Foundation, the CEDDET Foundation, Good Stuff International and Manos al Agua. The 40-hour course will focus on groundwater. It aims to provide participants with the knowledge and tools necessary to evaluate the water footprint in terms of water quantity and quality, based on international standards (ISO 14046 2014 and Global Water Footprint Standard) in various contexts. It also aims to build understanding of how Water Footprint Assessment can contribute to sustainable water use through public policies and corporate sustainability strategies.
    Read more here.
    To register for the course please contact

    Amsterdam International Water Week
    30th October - 3rd November 2017
    This year’s AIWW 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. In order to do so, it is ‘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.
    Read more here.
    Register here.
    E-learning course: Water Footprint Assessment, 13th November – 4th December 2017
    This online foundation course introduces Water Footprint Assessment and explains how it can be implemented and applied to inform decisions related to water policy and management. The course has been developed by the University of Twente with support of the World Bank Institute, and will be delivered by the University of Twente (the Netherlands) in collaboration with the University of the Free State (South Africa).
    Read and learn how to register here.
    Session @ AGU's Fall Meeting, New Orleans, 11th – 15th December 2017
    Dr. Ashok Chapagain of the Water Footprint Research Alliance will convene a session (ID 25950) at this year’s AGU Fall Meeting entitled “21st Century Water Statistics: Challenges and Emerging Approaches in Collecting, Processing and Sharing Water Availability, Use, Scarcity and Pollution Data”. The session is part of the Focus Group on Global Environmental Change (ID GC001) and will be co-convened by Michael Lathuilliere from the University of British Columbia and Henry Jordaan from the University of the Free State, South Africa.
    Session @ EGU General Assembly 2018, Vienna, Austria, 8th – 13th April 2018
    Dr. Ashok Chapagain will convene a session on Advances in Water Footprint Assessment and Applications (ID HS5.9) at this event, which will bring together geoscientists from all over the world, covering all disciplines of the Earth, planetary and space sciences. Abstract submission will open in October 2017 and close on 10th January 2018.
    Read more here.
    Special issue on water footprint in Water
    Three members of the Water Footprint Research Alliance have launched a Special Issue entitled Progress in Water Footprint Assessment in the journal Water. Papers can be submitted any time between today and 30th June 2018. Papers submitted and accepted earlier will be published right away.

    Read more about which subjects they are looking for here.




News of Recent Events

    Speech at 4th Water Research Conference, Kitchener, Canada, 10th – 13th September 2017
    On 12th September, Professor Arjen Hoekstra delivered a keynote speech entitled “Water Footprint Reduction in a Circular Bio-Based Economy” at the Water Research Conference: The Role of Water Technology Innovation in the Blue Economy, organised by the International Water Association in collaboration with the University of Waterloo.
    Read more here.
    Events @ Stockholm World Water Week, Stockholm City Conference Centre, Sweden, 27th August – 1st September 2017
     27th August: Water Footprint Network gave an oral presentation entitled “Water Footprint Assessment as a policy tool for pollution regulations”, as part of the seminar ‘Opportunities and limits to water pollution regulations’, run by OECD. Dr. Ertug Ercin explored how Water Footprint Network’s work with the UK Environment Agency showed some ways that Water Footprint Assessment can provide a basis for regulatory reform at the catchment level and allow more effective planning tools that relate to the actual usage of water.
    29th August: Water Footprint Network gave an oral presentation entitled “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’. Dr Christopher Briggs explained Water Footprint Network’s work on assessing the water footprint of textiles to improve the sustainability of the textile industry’s supply chain. The water footprint studies, with support from the C&A Foundation, have assessed the water footprint of the main fibres the textiles industry uses: cotton, polyester and viscose, including the footprint caused during processing. The results demonstrate that most of the textile industry’s water footprint is a result of water pollution and explores how, by adopting better practices, the industry can contribute to the improvement of water quality and achieve positive social, environmental and economic impacts.
    30th August: Water Footprint Network and the C&A Foundation 
    convened a session entitled ‘Initiatives and innovation addressing water pollution in textile fibres production, which focused on water and waste. 
    The session presented state of the art initiatives and highlighted innovations 
    that are transforming the textile industry’s impact on the quality of water resources. Case studies, which described the sector’s sustainability journey, were followed by discussion on the lessons learned by: Dr. Peter Bartsch Head of Corporate Sustainability, Lenzing, in producing Viscose with their drive for greatly reduced pollution; by Mattias Jonsson, CEO of re:newcell on the potential offered by recycling old fabrics; and by Stefanie Kaegi, Advisor Sustainable Agriculture and Extension Co-Manager WAPRO Project, Helvetas, on the support given at field level to increase water productivity. These viewpoints all offered valuable insights for all sectors interested in better water stewardship. 

    31st August: Water Footprint Network appeared on the SIWI sofa along with WWF, China Water Risk and SIWI and covered the ground made over the week to examine progress on the impact of water pollution on textiles and how to reverse the impact and what was still missing from the debate.
    Read the Stockholm World Water Week programme here and a news update of the opening here.








    Water Footprint Network has recently completed a multi-year project with C&A to help the company build capacity in its core business functions and in its global supply chain to reduce their water footprint and improve conditions for communities and the environment. Reports published as part of this project:
    FEWSion is inviting Water Footprint Research Alliance partners to contact them if they are interested in joining one of the working groups on a new effort to map spatially and temporally detailed U.S. supply chains, including footprints, and to exploit these data for network and sustainability science. Datasets and visualization systems are provisionally scheduled for release in winter 2017. If you are interested I hearing more about this, please email FEWSion’s Director, Ben Ruddell.

    In March and May 2017 COSUDE Colombia, Cap-Net UNDP, Quantis, and “Centro Nacional de Producción Más Limpia” (Colombia) jointly developed and delvered an online course in Spanish on Water Footprint (ISO 14016). The course was hosted and coordinated by the Cap-Net Virtual Campus, an innovative online platform that supports water capacity development. Following very high demand, 59 candidates were accepted from 16 Latin American countries. Over half of the participants passed the course, which received very positive feedback. Everyone can view the course content here, having registered on Cap-Net’s Virtual Campus.

    Erika Zarate and Derk Kuiper of Good Stuff International and Mesfin Mekonnen from the University of Nebraska (formerly the University of Twente), have developed a Geographic Agricultural Water Footprint Calculator (GAWFC). The new software tool calculates the green and blue water footprints of crops at geographic locations based on five georeferenced data inputs. It is based on the FAO Report 56 for calculation of crop Evapotranspiration and on the Water Footprint Assessment Manual developed by Water Footprint Network. The structure of the input files enables the calculation of green and blue water footprints of multiple sites and of multiple crops. The tool can thus not only be used in sites but also for catchment and supply chain agricultural water footprint calculations. Good Stuff International is exploring ways to make the tool available to the public. 
    Find out more about the GAWFC here.





    Water Footprint Assessment of washing-dyeing-finishing mills in China & Bangladesh
    This study by the Water Footprint Network assessed water consumption and pollution in the washing-dyeing-finishing stage of the supply chain of the global clothing retailer C&A, starting in 2013 and 2014. Its findings include these concepts: better water metering and monitoring is crucial in order to accurately measure impacts on local water resources; around Dhaka, Bangladesh, washing-dyeing-finishing mills are abstracting water from limited groundwater resources which is causing long-term decline in groundwater levels; and that cleaner production measures within the mills are important actions for reducing their contribution to degraded water quality.
    An assessment of sustainability issues related to viscose fibres production
    This study by Water Footprint Network concludes that, while there are several valuable initiatives addressing sustainability issues in textile production, there are important gaps, which need to be addressed in order to progress towards sustainable viscose production. These include: moving away from the tendency to apply the results from specific assessments to all fibres produced which can lead to misleading comparisons and results; addressing the logging of endangered and ancient forests by all viscose fibres producers and apparel brands; and the need to address substantial gaps in sustainability certification
    systems and initiatives when it comes to the industrial stages of viscose fibres
    Water Footprint Assessment of polyester and viscose
    This study by Water Footprint Network for the C&A Foundation builds an understanding of the water footprint related to polyester and viscose and compares it with the water footprint of cotton. The results highlight that the practices and technologies used in fibres production have a significant impact on the water footprint. The magnitude of the water footprint and the sustainability issues in the locations in which the footprint is found indicate that mechanisms and initiatives to address the sustainability issues associated with polyester and viscose fibres production are urgently needed.
    Reducing the water footprint of cotton cultivation in India
    Part 1: Guidance: How to reduce the water footprint of cotton cultivation in India.
    Part 2: Training: Guiding farmers toward sustainable cotton production – Managing the water footprint on cotton farms.
    These materials have been developed for use by those involved in training and capacity building of farmers, such as experts in agriculture extension services and other organisations helping farmers improve their agricultural practices. They can be used to help farmers understand why, how and when they can minimise the water footprint of cotton farming in their fields. Every farm is different and so the agricultural practices presented here should be taken individually or in combination to maximise yields while minimising the environmental impacts.
    Direct and indirect urban water footprints of the United States
    In this study, researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign estimate indirect water footprints of the United States for the first time. Then, they determine the total water footprint of cities for which direct water utility data is available. This enables them to present a novel comparison between the direct and indirect water footprints of cities.
    Drought impacts to water footprints and virtual water transfers of the Central Valley of California
    The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is productive! In this other paper they quantify drought impacts to water footprints and virtual water transfers from the Central Valley of California. To do this, they utilize data sets at high spatial and temporal resolution and a crop model from pre-drought conditions through three years of exceptional drought. The researchers find that virtual groundwater transfers increased dramatically over the course of the drought.
    The water footprint of wood for lumber, pulp, paper, fuel and firewood
    In a paper in Advances in Water Resources, researchers from the University of Twente present the first estimate of global water use in the forestry sector related to roundwood production for lumber, pulp, paper, fuel and firewood. For the period 1961–2010, they estimate forest evaporation at a high spatial resolution level and attribute total water consumption to various forest products, including ecosystem services. Recycling of wood products could effectively reduce the water footprint of the forestry sector, thereby leaving more water available for the generation of other ecosystem services. The results of this study contribute to a more complete picture of the human appropriation of water, thus feeding the debate on water for food or feed versus energy and wood.
    Virtual water trade and bilateral conflicts
    In a paper in Advances in Water Resources, researchers from Italy, Belgium and the UK study the relation between water scarcity and conflict and the role of virtual water in affecting the odds of militarized disputes between states. Using quantitative methods and data on virtual water trade, they find that bilateral and multilateral trade openness reduce the probability of war between any given pair of countries, which is consistent with the strategic role of this important commodity and the opportunity cost associated with the loss of trade gains. They also claim that the substantive effect of virtual water trade is comparable to that of oil and gas, the archetypal natural resources, in determining interstate conflicts’ probability.
    Review paper on the water footprint of ruminant production
    The recognition of water as a scarce resource has led to the development of several methodologies including water footprint assessment, life cycle assessment, and livestock water productivity to assess water use and its environmental impacts. This review paper by Canadian and European researchers describes the approaches used to quantify water use in ruminant production systems as well as the methodological and conceptual issues associated with each approach. Water use estimates for the main products from ruminant production systems are also presented, along with possible management strategies to reduce water use.
    The impact of the blue water footprint of China’s coal-fired power plants
    An international group of researchers has published a paper assessing the pressure imposed by China’s coal-fired power plants on the country’s freshwater resources. Coal-fired power plants play an important role in China’s energy supply. The study assessed water consumption of four cooling technologies: closed-cycle cooling, once-through cooling, air cooling, and seawater cooling. The researchers find that about 75% of water consumption of coal-fired power plants was from regions with absolute or chronic water scarcity. The article is co-authored by prof. Jungio Liu, prof. Hong Yang and dr Winnie Gerbens, all members of the Water Footprint Research Alliance.
    A standard commodity water footprint for cities in the United States
    A paper published in JAWRA develops a standard commodity water footprint for all medium and large U.S. metropolitan areas. Notably, a minority of these cities are identified as net virtual water exporters; these tend to be "rust belt" medium sized industrial centers with modest populations.
    Water footprint of regional virtual water flows related to grain production in China
    A report by China’s Northwest A&F University provides the statistics on grain production, consumptive water footprint of grain production and related virtual water balances at different spatial scales including 31 provinces, grain production and marketing areas, eight major grain production areas, and different spatial scales in China for the year of 2014. It is part of a report series published annually in order to visualise physical and virtual water flows related to grain production and consumption for water managers and researchers in China. Buy the report here.
    Evaluation of calculation methods of water footprint for crop production in China
    A paper by Northwest A&F University evaluates the applicable range and characteristics of existing calculation methods of crop water footprint for crop production in a case study for wheat production in China at the year of 2010. The results show that each of the three methods assessed have applicable scope and scientific value and indicate that which method is chosen should be based on the research scale and target.
    Water footprint assessment for crop production based on field measurements in China
    A collaborative study by Northwest A&F University and Hohai University aims to explore the feasibility of evaluating green, blue and grey water footprints of crop production based on field measurements. It is based on a case study of irrigated paddy rice grown in Huai'an, East China over 2011 to 2014. The study not only demonstrates the feasibility of assessing the water footprint of crop production with field experiments, but also provides a new method for water footprint calculation based on field water and fertilizer migration processes.

    The water footprint of Mexican consumption
    A book published earlier this year by the Mexican Institute of Water Technology (IMTA) has received a very positive response. The 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.





WFN Contact



Water Footprint Network
Horst Building
Drienerlolaan 5
7522 NB Enschede
The Netherlands


+31 85 53 4894320

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Water Footprint Network · Horst Building, Drienerlolaan 5 · Enschede, 7522 NB · Netherlands