Water Footprint

Climate Crisis & Water Scarcity

The Covid-19 pandemic has forced us to change how we live as it represents a massive impact on human life. The pandemic hasn’t finished yet. Some European countries entered lockdown for the third time in ten months. We are still wearing masks, trying to stay at home, and healthy. The pandemic has caused health and economic crises worldwide. It pushes us to think about climate change and our environmental footprint, the ecological impact of the food we eat, the clothes we wear and the plastics we use in our daily lives.

This subject is also a hot topic at the governmental level. 2021 could be a turning point for climate action. World leaders will be gathering in Glasgow to tackle climate change. Some countries are already signing up to diminish carbon emissions. China, responsible for 28% of world emissions,  announced that the government aims to go carbon neutral in 2060. China is not the first country that targets to go carbon neutral. In June 2019, the UK and then in march 2020 European Union announced net zero commitment (1). Our world needs robust action. According to the World Meteorological Organization, 2020 is recorded as one of the three warmest years on record(2). Climate crisis comes with the water crisis. Turkish State Meteorological Service announced that Turkey witnessed severe drought in November 2020 (3). Decreasing rainfall and increasing drought highlight an issue: “Water Footprint”.


What is Water Footprint ?

Everything we use, buy, eat takes water to make. According to the Water Footprint Network, “the water footprint measures the amount of water used to produce each of the goods and services we use. It can be measured for a single process such as growing rice, for a product, such as a pair of jeans, for the fuel we put in our car, or for an entire multinational company. The water footprint can also tell us how much water is being consumed by a particular country -or globally –in a specific river basin or aquifer (4).” Water footprint includes the water we use directly and indirectly- this is the water it took to produce the food we eat, the goods we buy, etc.

Water footprint also shows what type of water is used for goods and services. There are three water footprints;

Green Water Footprint refers to the consumption of rainwater stored in the soil formed by precipitation (5).

Blue Water Footprint measures the consumption of surface and ground water by individuals and societies.  It is the water in rivers, lakes, wetlands, and aquifers used for irrigation (5).

Grey Water Footprint refers to pollution and is defined as the volume of fresh water required to assimilate pollutants and maintain water quality standards (5).

Figure 1: https://www.researchgate.net/figure/Green-blue-and-grey-water-footprints_fig1_268444544

Agriculture and The Water We Eat

70% of the world’s surface is covered by water. However, only 2.5% of all water is fresh. Modern societies need lots of freshwater for industrial, municipal, and agricultural use. Demands are varied, from hydro energy, drinking, irrigation to sanitation. According to FAO Aquastat, agriculture consist of 69%, industrial usage forms 19%, and municipal usage presents 12% of global water withdrawals in the world. All these uses place pressures on water quantity and water quality (6). Even if water has the potential to be a renewable source, it is limited. Today human use in an unsustainable way, pollution, and climate change put water resources under stress. When we consume food, we also consume some embedded water. This water can also be called virtual water (7). Agriculture is the biggest user of the world’s freshwater resources. Some types of diets are more water-friendly. Producing meat, milk, and sugar typically require more water than producing cereals and requires different water management styles. To make 1 kg of beef, we need 15.400 litres of water, while this figure is 822 for one kg of apple (8).

Water Footprint in Turkey; Turkey, in terms of water resources, with 1500m3  usable water per person, is in the category of water constraint countries. Thus we need to create a sustainable water ecosystem for the next generations (9). For a sustainable water ecosystem, integrated river basin management is proposed in the 11th Development Report. When we look at Turkey’s water footprint 89% of Turkey’s total water footprint is created by the agricultural sector. 92% of the water footprint of agriculture is caused by vegetative production and 8% from grazing. Between 1996-2005 water footprint per person in Turkey was 1.642 m3/year, but this figure increased 20% between 2006 and 2011 and reached 1.977m3/year (10). We know that water is life. We need to preserve our water resources and create consciousness about the subject. Several start-ups are working on this issue. If you are interested you can check our Turkish Water Ecosystem Map and see which actors take part in the water ecosystem.

If you want to learn more about water, you can also check out our Future of Water report series.

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(1) https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-55498657

(2) https://public.wmo.int/en/media/press-release/2020-track-be-one-of-three-warmest-years-record





(7) https://brusselsbriefings.files.wordpress.com/2009/02/r16en.pdf



(10) https://wwftr.awsassets.panda.org/downloads/su_ayak_izi_raporweb.pdf?2720