The [Water Footprint] Network1 recognised that most governments “have a blind spot to the issue of sustainability of national consumption.” It believed that governments can and should engage with consumers and businesses to work towards sustainable consumer products.

The Network believes that national water footprint accounting should be a standard component in national water statistics. This type of accounting ought to provide a basis to formulate national water plans and river basin plans that are coherent with national trade policy and national environmental policy.

The Network also underscored the major difference between a carbon footprint and a water footprint.  A carbon emission in one place, it said, can be offset by carbon emission reduction or sequestration in another place.  This is not true of water. One cannot reduce the local impact of water use in one place by saving water in another place. Each area has to be looked at separately, as water tables cannot be averaged with other water tables and river basins. This is where averages just don’t work.


  • 1. In November 2004, UNESCO brought out a series of papers compiled by AY Hoekstra that were aimed at making the world understand how to look at the water footprint for almost every product. By October 2008 these papers led to the formation of the Water Footprint Network by a number of major global players from business, civil society, multilateral organisations and academia.