Countries and businesses are facing various challenges with regard to water resources and the management thereof. Good information regarding water usage of businesses, products, processes and catchments will assist in understating the appropriation, impacts and pressures on water resources. Whether a specific activity or production process is sustainable or not, does not depend merely on the activity itself, but also on the context in which this activity takes place and on how many and what other sort of activities take place as well. A water footprint assessment identifies various components of water usage and assesses water usage and pollution in the context of a catchment area. Comprehensive information provided by a water footprint assessment can assist water users and aid in understanding how one can achieve more efficient and sustainable water use and highlight cumulative impacts and the shared risks between stakeholders.

GCS offers a wide scope of water footprint assessments pertaining to the needs of the company and institution.

A water footprint assessment can be divided into the following four phases:

  • Goal and Scope:

The calculation of both direct (operational) and indirect (supply chains) water usage over wide spatial and temporal range, identifying types of water usage (blue, green, grey) and critical water components for catchment, products and water use over a number of periods and scenarios. The goal of the water footprint assessment can vary and include: awareness-raising, hotspot/impact identification, projection of future impacts, assess supply chains, product transparency, environmental reporting, benchmarking, identification of critical water footprint components and impacts and formulation od reduction strategies and targets.

  • Inventory and Accounting:

The identification of the direct consumptive water usage per product, sector or watershed. Water usage can be classified into blue (surface water, evaporation and groundwater), green (rainwater insofar as it would not become run-off) and grey (the water required to assimilate any pollutants entering a water body) WFs.

  • Impact and Sustainability Assessment:

Identifying the impacts of water usage and pollution within a watershed related to an activity or product by examining environmental hotspots and impacts such as contribution to scarcity and degradation (e.g.  Water pollution levels, eutrophication, and acidification).  GCS can also examine economic and social contributions of water usage providing indication of water efficiency and productivity (e.g. Economic productivity, employment and basic human reserves).

  • Interpretation of Results and Response Formulation:

Identifying critical impacts of water usage and pollution in specific periods (eg. certain months) and critical components of processes. In addition, providing reduction targets and recycling and avoidance strategies for water usage and impacts, as well as devising reasonable benchmarks and potential off-setting strategies and the development of water cost curves.

In conducting a water footprint assessment, the following actions are generally undertaken:

  • Consultation and Site Visit: Identify the goal and scope of project as well as review the available information. Set the geographical and temporal scope and focus assessment.
  • Compilation of Water Footprint Assessment: A comprehensive water footprint assessment would provide an indication of critical water footprint components and impacts with response formulations.

GCS has the necessary expertise, staff and equipment to undertake the required investigations and reporting within a variety of sectors and over a wide range of situations.