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It is increasingly recognised that freshwater scarcity and pollution are to be understood in a global context. Local water depletion and pollution are often closely tied to the structure of the global economy. With increasing trade between nations and continents, water is more frequently used to produce export goods. International trade in commodities implies long-distance transfers of water in virtual form, where virtual water is understood as the volume of water that has been used to produce a commodity and that is thus virtually embedded in it. Knowledge about the virtual water flows entering and leaving a country can cast a completely new light on the actual water scarcity of a country. At the same time, it becomes increasingly relevant to consider the linkages between consumer goods and impacts on freshwater systems. This can improve our understanding of the processes that drive changes imposed on freshwater systems and help to develop policies of wise water governance. The water footprint is an innovative concept to analyse water consumption and pollution along supply chains, assess the sustainability of water use and explore where and how water use can best be reduced. This chapter shows how the water footprint concept can be used to understand the international dimension of water and to assess water use behind daily consumer goods. This chapter argues for greater product transparency, water footprint ceilings per river basin and water footprint benchmarks for water-intensive commodities.
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- The Water Footprint: The Relation Between Human Consumption and Water Use
Arjen Y. Hoekstra