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A review on the indicator water footprint for the EU28
Vanham, D.; Bidoglio, G. (2013). A review on the indicator water footprint for the EU28. Ecol. Indic. 26: 61-75.
In: Ecological Indicators. Elsevier: Shannon. ISSN 1470-160X, more
Peer reviewed article  

Available in  Authors 

    Marine; Brackish water; Fresh water; Terrestrial
Author keywords
    Water; Water footprint; Virtual water; European Union (EU)

Authors  Top 
  • Vanham, D.
  • Bidoglio, G.

    The water footprint (WF) is an indicator that accounts for both the direct (domestic water use) and indirect (water required to produce industrial and agricultural products) water use of a consumer or producer. This paper makes a review on the WF indicator and its applicability for EU28 (EU27 and Croatia) policy. More particularly the volumetric WF assessment approach of the Water Footprint Network (WFN) is reviewed. A synthesis of existing national WF accounting quantities results in an EU28 WF of production (WFprod) of 3420 lcd (609 km3/yr) and a WF of consumption (WFcons) of 4815 lcd (857 km3/yr). Of the latter 60% is internal and 40% is external to Europe. The EU28 is a net virtual water importer. The WF of agricultural products contributes by far the largest fraction of the total WF, i.e. 91% of the total WFprod and 89% of the WFcons. With traditional water use statistics, awareness campaigns and policy have always focused on increasing water efficiency in domestic and industrial water use. However, much more water can be saved in agricultural production processes, by reducing food waste and by a change in diet of the average EU consumer. Together with a comprehensive overview on possible ways to reduce WF, this paper provides a critical review on the WF methodology, showing that the development of the WF concept is still not complete. Practical complexities with data (availability of and inconsistencies in the underlying databases) are a concern. Some conceptual aspects need to be further developed and tested, not at least the indicators for sustainability assessment. The most important limitation is the fact that it is a partial tool to be used in combination with other analytical means or indicators when determining integrated policy options. Nevertheless, its main strength is the possibility to show the importance of consumption patterns and global dimensions in water governance.

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