WF: LCM and Water Footprint
Time: Monday, 29/Aug/2011: 2:00pm - 4:00pm
Session Chair: Emmanuelle Aoustin
Session Chair: Annette Koehler
Location: Room 1
2nd floor


Rethinking water policy in water-scarce countries: Lessons learned from a life-cycle water footprint perspective

Maite Aldaya, Guido Sonnemann

UNEP, France

As water resources are unevenly distributed and, in some regions scarcity and droughts are increasing both in frequency and intensity, concerns about them are also becoming more and more important on the political agenda. In this context, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) as part of the UNEP's umbrella project entitled ‘Water Footprint, Neutrality and Efficiency’ (WaFNE) is addressing the growing need to further enhance water efficiency and to improve water quality more holistically, by applying harmonized concepts in water-intensive industries and water-stressed areas especially in the developing world. The final objective is to improve water governance through the engagement of the public and private sectors (business and industry, including financial services) in collaborative work with UNEP. In the same line, developments and discussions on the water footprint indicator are being held under different forums, such as the UNEP/SETAC framework for life cycle impact assessment, the Water Footprint Network and the ISO 14046 Water Footprint Initiative Subcommittee.

Traditionally, governments responsible for water resources management have targeted their policies towards direct water users (such as farmers, industries and households). Recently, however, it has been shown that this approach is limited. Indirect water users and managers, such as final consumers, retailers, traders and all sorts of businesses active along the supply chains of final consumer goods remain out of the scope of governmental policies aimed at mitigating water scarcity and pollution. All water use in the world, however, is ultimately linked to final consumption by consumers. It is therefore interesting to analyze these new multi-sectorial policy aspects and multi-actor approach that have the potential contribute to a better management of water resources.

Water consumption throughout a car’s life cycle

Jens Warsen1, Markus Berger2, Stephan Krinke1, Matthias Finkbeiner2

1Volkswagen AG, Germany; 2Technische Universität Berlin, Germany

Volkswagen has been analysing the environmental effects of its cars and components by means of life cycle assessment since many years. However, due to lack of data and appropriate impact assessment models, the consumption of freshwater has not been taken into account so far. The purpose of this study is, thus, to analyse the freshwater consumption of selected Volkswagen models along the entire product life cycle considering both inventory and impact assessment level.

The freshwater consumption throughout a car’s life cycle is determined using the GaBi 4.3 software and internal LCA databases. In order to obtain a regionalised water inventory, which is a prerequisite for a meaningful impact assessment, the total water consumption is allocated to different cars’ material groups in a first step. Subsequently, the water consumption caused in these groups is assigned top down to the corresponding countries on base of import mixes, location of suppliers, production sites, etc. Based on this, country and watershed specific characterisation factors are calculated and selected impact assessment methods for water use are applied to estimate consequences on different impact categories.

The results of this study show, that – in contrast to other impact categories – the production phase is responsible for the majority of the total water consumption in a car’s life cycle. In detail, the use of water is mainly linked to the supply of resources and materials from more than 40 countries. Furthermore, it becomes clear that the results of the impact assessment are highly sensitive to the regional distribution, i.e. the balance of water consumption and the respective water supply. The consideration of water consumption is an important additional measure to complete the life cycle assessment not only of cars, but also other products.

Assessing Water Footprint of companies in Colombia

Sergio Perez1, Anna Kounina2,3, Francois Muenger4, Walter Reithebuch4, Yves Loerincik2, Sebastien Humbert2

1Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), Colombia; 2Quantis, Switzerland; 3Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Switzerland; 4Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), Switzerland

Stress on global water resources, and especially in developing countries, is recognized as an important issue in terms of long term sustainability. From a company life cycle management perspective, there is therefore a growing demand for adequate methods assessing impacts related to water use. For companies operating in developing countries that are engaged into a sustainable development path, reducing pressure on water should be fully part of the strategy. In order to reduce pressure on water, the first step is to understand one’s water footprint, including water consumption, withdrawal and pollution. This project, promoted by Switzerland, aims at evaluating the water footprint of four European-based companies implemented in Colombia, giving special attention to the direct factory water footprint as well as to the upstream (supply chain) and downstream (use phase and end-of-life) water footprint of their respective products. The four companies are Clariant (chemistry), Holcim (cement and concrete), Nestlé (food production), and Syngenta (chemistry). In a second step, the different measures aiming at reducing, alleviating and possibly offsetting (also known as compensating or responsible actions) water footprint will be assessed in order to identify the alternatives to promote in priority. A comprehensive water footprint methodology has been specifically developed for this project, considering impacts related to water consumption, to water withdrawal that is released into the watershed, to water pollution and also to turbined water related to hydroelectricity use. Preliminary results will be presented at LCM 2011.

Assessment of the Water Footprint of wheat in Mexico

Carole Farell1, Sylvie Turpin1, Nydia Suppen2

1Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana, Mexico; 2Centro de Análisis de Ciclo de Vida y Diseño Sustentable (CADIS), Mexico


The water footprint defined as “the total volume of freshwater that is used to produce the goods and services”, can conceal important spatial and temporal variations as well as environmental impacts caused by the use of water. The proposal of this investigation is to combine the concept of water footprint with Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), with which it is possible to assess, within the grey water component, the environmental impacts generated by the use of water. When the water footprint is assessed with a Life Cycle approach and normalized with the water stress index, it is possible to integrate to the water footprint quantification, both the environmental impacts caused by the use of water and the water scarcity caused by the process that is being evaluated. The proposed methodology was applied to the growth of wheat in Mexico and it is compared with the water footprint of wheat in other countries.


The blue component is obtained from the sum of the volume of water used in irrigation of the field. The green component is quantified with the FAO 56 Penman-Monteith method as the average monthly crop evapotranspiration under standard conditions (ETc). The grey component is obtained from two midpoint impact categories: Aquatic Ecotoxicity and Human Toxicity, with the LCIA method EDIP 2003 and with the Simapro 7.2 software. The assessment is made for a period of 5 agricultural years (2004-2009).The results are normalized with the water stress index in order to reflect the impact in terms of water depletion.


The blue component (1140 m3/Ton) is in the upper limit of the theoretical efficiency (625-1250 m 3/ Ton). The green component (3533 m3/Ton) is high due to the climatic conditions in which the wheat is cultivated. The grey component (11087 m3/Ton) integrates theoretical volume of water needed to dilute all the pollutants emitted from raw materials extraction and use of fertilizers, pesticides and farm machinery. To reflect the contribution of the process to water depletion, the total water footprint is normalized with the water stress index of the region (69.26%).


Results show not only the volume of water used, but also the impact on ecotoxicity, human toxicity and depletion of the resource that agricultural activity causes in these areas. A methodology with these characteristics provides more information for making decisions and facilitates water management.

Damage assessment model for freshwater consumption and a case study on PET bottle production applied new technology for water footprint reduction

Masaharu Motoshita1, Norihiro Itsubo2, Kiyotaka Tahara1, Atsushi Inaba3

1National institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, Japan; 2Tokyo City University, Japan; 3Kogakuin University, Japan

In this study, damage assessment model was developed to assess the damage caused by withdrawal water consumption. The target endpoint of this model is human health damage and social asset depletion arisen from domestic and agricultural water scarcity. Health damage of infectious diseases due to domestic water scarcity was modeled by applying regression analysis based on statistical data on national scale. Undernourishment damage and agricultural production loss were also modeled by relating agricultural water scarcity with food consumption and agricultural commodity production with the consideration of international trade effect.

Estimated damage factors were applied to the case study of water footprint of PET bottle production. PET bottles demand large amount of water for their production (washing, cooling), almost same volume (0.69L) of water as the volume of bottle (0.55L). Thus, the consumption of water in production stage seems to be not negligible for water footprint of PET bottled drinks.

In Japan, water scarcity is not a severe environmental issue. However, some Japanese product makers have moved their production factories to other countries, mainly Asia, due to the growth of demand and labor power in those emerging countries. Compared to Japan, most of these Asian countries are suffering from water scarcity, which was also confirmed by the developed damage assessment model. In order to reduce the effect of water consumption in PET production, new technology for the filling process of PET bottle has been developed and can contribute to reduction of water demand in the process.

Based on water footprint analysis, it was quantitatively confirmed that new filling technology could reduce no small amount of water footprint of PET bottle production (almost 30% of total water footprint). Furthermore, the technology will contribute to the damage reduction due to water consumption especially in Asian countries by applying the developed damage assessment model. The new filling technology of PET bottles can contribute to the reduction of water footprint and bring larger advantage for the PET production in Asian countries (sensitive to water scarcity) than in Japan.

The Water Impact Index: A new tool for water footprinting

Jean-Baptiste Bayart, Emmanuelle Aoustin

Veolia Environnement, France

The decrease of the availability of freshwater resources is recognized as being one of the major environmental issues of the coming decades. Within Life-Cycle Assessment, several impact categories already aim to tackle impacts of entropic activities on water bodies, both from the quality aspect (i.e. aquatic ecotoxicity and eutrophication), but also from a quantity aspect. However, decision makers often have to deal with a high number of indicators, across environmental but also economic and social domains. Therefore, the number of environmental indicators included in the decision making process is often limited, potentially resulting in important environmental issues not being considered.

In order to reduce the number of environmental indicators related to freshwater aspects in a decision making process, the Water Impact Index (a “stand-alone” metric for assessing impact of entropic activities on freshwater resources) has been developed. This indicator accounts for the reduction of freshwater availability for different users (both humans and ecosystems). For any product or process, the physical water balance is weighted by a quality index and a water stress index. This methodology is applied within a Life-Cycle thinking approach, taking into account both direct but also indirect water uses of any process.

A case study on municipal water services shows how this indicator could be applied to assist decision makers in gaining a better understanding of water use impacts. Regarding drinking water production, the Water Impact Index is driven by direct water abstraction from the freshwater resource, as the quality of the resource used is very high. The sewage system contributes to reduce the Water Impact Index, as the quality of wastewater collected is improved and brought back closer to environmental requirements before being discharged. The study of different scenarios, such as overflow management solutions or potential water treatment process improvements, has highlighted that the direct Water Impact Index could be easily decreased, with a low impact on the indirect Water Impact Index (i.e. supply chain impact). Finally, some combined carbon footprint and Water Impact Index studies have shown that even if some changes in water treatment solutions can lead to a necessary trade-off between impacts, some win/win solutions remain possible.

Water Footprint in four selected Breweries in Nigeria

Ife Kehinde Adewumi1,2, Oluwadare Joshua Oyebode2, Chidiebere Kingsley Igbokwe2, Oluwatobi Gbenga Aluko2

1Obafemi Awolowo University, Nigeria; 2University of Ibadan, Nigeria

There is very high water stress in Nigeria, especially in the urban areas where the Water Poverty Index (WPI) , which is the ratio of time spent (in minutes) in collecting a given volume of water (in litres) for domestic use in a day, could be as high as 5.0 when the value should be well below zero. Although most industries in Nigeria depend on ground water source for their production, some still draw from priority line of public water source for most of the domestic uses in the industries.

The water footprint in four major breweries in different hydrological settings and water access conditions were studied for their water source, use, and Cleaner Production (CP) efforts. The ABREW software was used in evaluating the volume of water consumption per volume of beverage produced in the five conventional sections of a brewery. The possible engineering treatment method to remove pollutants in the breweries’ wastewaters before discharge into receiving streams, reduce in-house water wastage and possible reuse of the treated wastewater was part of the objective of the research.

All the breweries studied were in excess water usage category of their best practice rating by 2.9 -5.08 hl/hl of product. Although three of the breweries belong to the same multinational, there were observed variations in the capacities, CP practice and effluent discharges based on the variation in the facilities in terms of age and technology of equipment and management character. The average cost of operating losses from non-observance of CP practice in terms of energy and material wastage ranged between $0.81 -$2.4 per hl of beverage produced . The wastewater runoff averaged about 35 - 61 million hectoliters. Treating this volume will provide useable water, at least for irrigation by host communities. The BOD and COD loadings in the waste stream were below the maximum range except in one of the multinational breweries with a potential BOD reduction of 0.99kg/hl of product. The Processing Units generate the most wastewater in all the Industries studied. Higher water savings and reduction in raw material and energy wastage was possible in the Brew house and packaging units through CP practice and upgrading of equipment. Provision of potable water by the breweries to the host communities as corporate social responsibilities was recommended to reduce the WPI .

Development and application of a water footprint metric for agricultural products and the food industry

Bradley George Ridoutt

CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation), Australia

Despite being the driest inhabited continent, Australia is a major producer and exporter of agricultural products. While water use efficiency is a longstanding and familiar concept within the sector, as water is the growth limiting factor in many Australian agricultural production systems, water footprinting has recently emerged as a key parameter in the academic and public debate about sustainable food systems. This presentation summarises recent case study evidence relating to the production of cereal, horticulture, dairy, red meat and manufactured food products, highlighting the application of LCA-based water footprinting within LCM and the opportunities for further method development.