2nd Edition

The Water Footprint of Modern Consumer Society

By Arjen Y. Hoekstra Copyright 2020
    294 Pages 63 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    294 Pages 63 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

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    Using the water footprint concept, this impactful book aids our understanding of how we can reduce water consumption and pollution to sustainable levels.

    Since the publication of the first edition, the question of how to reduce our water footprint has become even more urgent. Freshwater scarcity is increasingly perceived as a global systemic risk and overconsumption of water is widespread. The water footprint, a concept founded by the author, is an indicator of direct and indirect freshwater use by a consumer or producer that can be used to analyze water usage along supply chains and assess the sustainability, efficiency and fairness of our water use. This new edition is fully revised and updated to reflect continued developments in this rapidly growing field of knowledge. New chapters are added covering the history of the water footprint concept; the environmental footprint of the human species versus planetary boundaries; and the human right to water as a foundation to equitable sharing. All other chapters are fully revised with new findings, applications and references, including major new research on energy, vegetarian diets and intelligent water allocation over competing demands.

    The Water Footprint of Modern Consumer Society is a key textbook for students of interdisciplinary water studies and those taking other related courses within the environmental sciences. It will also be of interest to those working in the governmental sector, environmental and consumer organizations, the business sector and UN institutions, where there is growing interest in the water footprint concept.

    1. The environmental footprint of the human species 

    2. A brief history of water footprint thinking 

    3. Why do we overexploit our limited freshwater resources? 

    4. Drinking ten bathtubs of water a day 

    5. Water for bread and pasta 

    6. Meat and dairy, the biggest water users 

    7. How our cotton clothes link to a disappearing sea 

    8. The energy transition: how to combine carbon and water footprint reduction? 

    9. The overseas water footprint of cut flowers 

    10. The supply-chain water footprint of paper 

    11. Sustainability: water footprint caps per water body 

    12. Efficiency: water footprint benchmarks per product 

    13. Equitability: fair water footprint shares per community 

    14. Allocating the world’s limited freshwater resources 

    15. Getting trade right 

    16. Product transparency 

    17. Who will be the heroes of change?


    Arjen Y. Hoekstra is Professor in Water Management at the University of Twente, the Netherlands, and co-founder of the Water Footprint Network. As creator of the water footprint concept, he introduced supply-chain thinking in water management and was the first to point at the global dimension of wise water governance.

    "Water scarcity and water pollution are escalating global risks. Both are reinforced through unsustainable consumption and production patterns. Arjen Hoekstra discusses a range of innovative and evidence-based options to achieve sustainable water management that are very valuable and to be taken into consideration in water policy and decision-making." - Stefan Uhlenbrook, Director of the World Water Assessment Programme of the United Nations

    "Arjen Hoekstra convincingly points to the crucial role that water plays in our global economy and explains why this role must be managed not just locally. The strength of the water footprint concept is that it personalizes the decisions that lead to the global water risks and challenges we are facing today. The book’s concepts and insights can help bringing stakeholders together and mobilizing action towards making our economies more sustainable. The book offers an important and critical perspective as countries embark on pursuing the Sustainable Development Goals – all of which have a water footprint!" - Dr Monika Weber-Fahr, Executive Secretary & CEO, Global Water Partnership

    "The water footprint has fundamentally changed the way that we view the concept of ‘water use’ in context. With this latest edition, Professor Hoekstra offers updates that continue to inform, and challenge, thinking on how water is used within businesses, the economy, and how it needs to be considered within government allocation efforts. If we are to bend the curve on biodiversity loss, we urgently need to move towards water use that is within planetary and river basin boundaries, and this book offers insights on pathways to move us collectively in that direction." - Alexis Morgan, Global Water Stewardship Lead, WWF

    "When Arjen Hoekstra came out with the notion of the water footprint, it was warmly welcomed as a tool to raise awareness on the hidden link between water problems and our daily consumer goods. Finally, we had a common language in dealing with issues of water scarcity, pollution, waste and inefficiency. In this book, Arjen Hoekstra goes beyond awareness raising and shows how we can use water footprint assessment to solve water problems in practice and inform decision making across value and supply chains. The much anticipated second edition shows governments, businesses and consumers how to formulate incentives and regulatory measures that will contribute to sustainability and help us become responsible world citizens. Recommended reading for everyone!" - Olcay Ünver, Deputy-Director of the Land and Water Division of the Food and Agriculture Organization, and Vice-Chair of UN-Water

    Praise for the first edition

    "How much water do we really use, as individuals and society? Until recently, we didn't really know, but the concept of the "water footprint" – developed and analyzed by Arjen Y. Hoekstra (and his colleagues) – has revolutionized our understanding of our water use. Hoekstra's compelling and informative book is a vital contribution to the desperately needed public debate over how best to move to sustainable water management, use, and policy. It deserves to be read by anyone concerned about the planet’s freshwater resources. " – Dr. Peter H. Gleick, president and co-founder of the Pacific Institute and creator of The World’s Water book series 

    "Over the next 20 years the global demand for water is expected to exceed supply by 40% with dire consequences for our planet. Professor Hoekstra’s meticulously researched book uses the concept of water footprinting – in ways that make it easy to understand just how much water plays a central part in our everyday lives – as a means of helping to manage and reduce water consumption. It is a timely contribution to an increasingly urgent debate." – Paul Polman, CEO Unilever 

    "No concept has done more to show the role of water in our lives. For too long, water has been mismanaged because it was invisible. The water footprint concept has helped us see how water flows through our lives and economies – and what we value, we protect." – Stuart Orr, Freshwater Manager, WWF International 

    "The importance of water in the consumer goods sector is clear. As a result, many companies in this sector not only recognize the value of water stewardship strategies in managing the issue of "social license to operate", but also as an important framework in supporting a "license to grow". Without adequate supplies of water, this sector will likely face challenges in meeting their growth strategies. This contribution by Professor Hoekstra advances our understanding of the role of water in the consumer goods sector and can move us closer to addressing water scarcity and sustainable consumption and move towards a Circular Economy." – Will Sarni, Director and Practice Leader, Enterprise Water Strategy, Deloitte Consulting LLP

    "The Water Footprint of Modern Consumer Society  is worthy of the highest recommendation especially for college and university library collections" – James A. Cox, Midwest Book Review

    "The book is clear and concise and very well researched. It is an excellent read for anyone interested in the impact of our modern lifestyle."Sarah Morris, Sherkin Comment

    "Hoekstra provides detailed case studies of various products, starting with cola with its input of sugar, caffeine etc along with cans, packaging, labels and transport pallets. In addition, there is the water footprint of the factory itself."David Lorimer, Network Review