The water footprint of humanity has exceeded sustainable levels at several places and is unequally distributed among people. Water footprint reduction and mitigation of its impacts encompass a shared responsibility between consumers, producers, investors and governments. Good information about water footprints of communities and businesses is required in order to understand how we can formulate adequate response strategies pointing towards a more sustainable and equitable use of fresh water.
Water scarcity is often the result of inadequate attention to freshwater when investing in agriculture or expanding cities or industries.
Integration of freshwater considerations is essential in nearly all decisions made in daily life. As consumers we make decisions on what we consume, which indirectly affect our water footprint. As workers for private or governmental organisations we make decisions on public and private investments, on where materials are sourced from and on agricultural, urban and energy policies.
The accumulation of all these decisions has brought us in the position we face today: too many places that face severe freshwater scarcity and pollution, where rivers run dry, groundwater tables and lake levels decline and aquatic life is threatened by damming of rivers and by pollution. Often this is invisible to us as consumers, because as a result of global trade of both agricultural and industrial goods, we have no longer any idea about the natural resource use and environmental impacts associated with the products we consume.
Many of us are spatially disconnected from the processes necessary to produce the products we consume. Good water governance is not a simple matter of managing our waters better; it is about integrating considerations of freshwater scarcity in everyday life decisions in all sectors of society.
Arjen Y. Hoekstra
Arjen Hoekstra is Professor in Water Management at the University of Twente and Scientific Director of the Water Footprint Network. He specialises in integrated water resources management, river basin management, policy analysis, systems analysis and the science of sustainable development.
Hoekstra has an MSc degree in Civil Engineering and a PhD degree in Policy Analysis, both from the Delft University of Technology. He has working experience in various professional environments in different countries.
Hoekstra is creator of the water footprint concept and established the interdisciplinary research field of water footprint assessment, which addresses the relations between water management, consumption and trade.
His publications cover a wide range of topics related to water scarcity, flood risk management and sustainable development and include 45 papers in peer-reviewed scientific journals. His books include “Perspectives on Water” (1998), “Globalization of Water” (2008) and “The Water Footprint Assessment Manual” (2011).