Resource evaluation: water

The direct use of water as a resource and its potential effects on humans and the environment is not included in the environmental record. The importance of integrating water use into a comprehensive assessment of environmental and resources is evidenced by the fact that, although the right of access to clean water is recognised as a human right by the UN, this right is not honoured globally, and there needs to be greater awareness of water shortages. We can assume that the utilisation pressure on fresh water resources on this planet is bound to increase still further owing primarily to continuing population growth, the effects of climate change, and altered consumption patterns.

Sustainable water management has to be a concern for society as a whole to ensure that we can respond to this trend. This also increases the pressure on politicians and industry to quantify the actual effects of water use and consumption on the environment and to implement measures to reduce water consumption in processes.

Water use Water consumption

The total volume of water taken from a reservoir and used in the technology sector, regardless of the quantities which are then returned to a water catchment area. This term does not cover the use of reservoirs.

The volume of water taken from a reservoir and not returned to the same water catchment area. This comprises the water that is condensed, integrated into the product, or is transferred to another water catchment area.

The advantage of the “water consumption” indicator is that, by contrast with water use, the volume of water that is returned to the system is taken into account, which gives a more meaningful result. However, one disadvantage is that the quantities of input and output water have to be declared, and this is often only given as an aggregate water volume  in the primary data. The use of this indicator relies on the declaration of the locality and volume of water removal/return, and also the quality of the waste water.

The indicator is designed to given an initial overview of water use in different life phases and to highlight efficiency potentials. The results are usually restricted in their meaningfulness owing to the level of detail in the inventory data.