Water footprint

People use lots of water for drinking, cooking and washing, but even more for producing things such as food, paper, cotton clothes, etc. The water footprint of an individual, business or nation is defined as the total volume of freshwater that is used to produce the goods and services consumed by the individual, business or nation.

The relation between consumption and water use

The water footprint of a nation shows the total volume of water that is used to produce the goods and services consumed by the inhabitants of the nation. Since not all goods consumed in one particular country are produced in that country, the water footprint consists of two parts: use of domestic water resources and use of water outside the borders of the country. The water footprint includes both the water withdrawn from surface and groundwater and the use of soil water (in agricultural production).


New in 2008:
Book on 'Globalisation of Water'

The 2007-paper on 'Water Footprints of Nations'

Water Footprints of Nations 

Download other publications

List of publications

Some facts and figures

  • The production of one kilogram of beef requires 16 thousand litres of water.
  • To produce one cup of coffee we need 140 litres of water.
  • The water footprint of China is about 700 cubic meter per year per capita. Only about 7% of the Chinese water footprint falls outside China.
  • Japan with a footprint of 1150 cubic meter per year per capita, has about 65% of its total water footprint outside the borders of the country.
  • The USA water footprint is 2500 cubic meter per year per capita.


Introduction of the virtual water concept Tony Allan, London, UK
Introduction of the water footprint concept Arjen Hoekstra, Delft , the Netherlands
Dec 2002
International Expert Meeting on Virtual Water Trade UNESCO-IHE, Delft, the Netherlands
Mar 2003
Session on Virtual Water Trade and Geopolitics 3rd World Water Forum, Kyoto, Japan
Aug 2003
Workshop on Virtual Water Stockholm water symposium, Sweden
E-conference on Virtual Water Trade and Geopolitics World Water Council
Two workshops (Nov. 04, March 05) on �Consequences of increased meat consumption on the global environment: Transfer of virtual water, energy and nutrients� Stanford University, USA
Sep 2005
Workshop on virtual water trade German Development Institute (DIE), Bonn, Germany
Mar 2006
Session of virtual water in the Arab Region 4th World Water Forum, Mexico
Jul 2006
Workshop on virtual water trade Institute for Social-Ecological Research (ISOE), Frankfurt
May 2007
Launch of the water-neutral website Pancho Ndebele et al.
Mar 2008
Symposium Virtual Water Trade TU Delft / UNESCO-IHE, Delft
Aug 2008
Session on Social Metabolism and Water: Water Footprint and Virtual Water Trade Conference of the International Society for Ecological Economics, Nairobi

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