Is a small footprint really better than a large one?
In light of World Day to Combat Desertification, Dennis Wichelns, former IWMI Deputy Director General and current visiting professor at the Institute of Water Policy, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore, discusses the usefulness (or lack thereof) of using water footprints to mitigate water scarcity issues.
Water footprints measure the amount of water consumed or applied in the production of a good or service. A single cup of coffee, for example, has a water foot print of 140 liters of water. The concept is widely publicized and is now beginning to influence government policy. But according Dennis Wichelns, professor at the Institute of Water Policy National University of Singapore, that is a mistake. The problem, he argues, is that this measure looks only at the water input for particular products, and takes no account of other factors that may be more relevant to sustainable resource use. In a humid regions with lots of rainfall, for instance, the water footprint of an activity might not matter at all.
Interview conducted by James Clarke, Head of Communications at the International Water Management Institute and Abby Waldorf, Communications and Engagement Fellow of the CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems.