Water Offsets/Credits and Water Footprints
Fresh water is a scarce resource. Water makes up 60-70% by weight of all living organisms and is essential for photosynthesis. The total amount of water on earth barely changes from year to year. Hydrological cycle of evaporation and precipitation circulates the earth’s water between the oceans, land and the atmosphere. Water covers 75% of the earth’s surface, 97.5% of that is salt water, only 2.5% is fresh water. Icecaps and glaciers hold 74% of the world’s fresh water. Almost all the rest is underground or locked in soils as moisture or permafrost. Only 0.3% of the world’s fresh water is found in rivers or lakes. Less than 1% of the worlds surface water or below ground fresh water is accessible for human use. Within 25 years half the world’s population could have trouble finding enough fresh water for drinking and irrigation. Currently over 80 countries representing 40% of the worlds people are subject to serious water shortages. Conditions may get worse in the next 50 years as the population grows and as global climate change disrupts rainfall patterns. A third of the world lives in water stressed areas where consumption outstrips supply. West Asia faces the greatest threat with over 90% of the region’s population experiencing severe water stress, with water consumption exceeding 10% of renewable fresh water resources.
Approximately 60-70% of the rural populations in the developing world have neither access to a safe and convenient source of water, or a satisfactory means of waste water disposal.
Every living thing needs water and every living thing is made of some water e.g. a chicken is about 75% water and a pineapple is about 80% water. More than one and a half billion people do not have access to a safe and adequate water supply and unless action is stepped up this number could increase by 2.3 billion by 2025. The United States use a 100 billion gallons of water for irrigation of crops per day. It is estimate that 50% of the world’s population lacks access to adequate sanitation. If all the earth’s water fit in a gallon jug the amount of valuable fresh water would equal just over a tablespoon. On average a human uses 70 gallons of water per day. A Person needs 4-5 gallons of water per day to survive. A person can live about a month without food but only a week without water.
Water systems fail at a rate of 50% or higher and lose 30% of all water pumped through leaks and broken pipes. More than 200 million hours are spent each day in Africa by woman and female children to collect water from distant and often polluted sources. The average African family uses about 5 gallons of water each day. The average American individual uses 150 gallons of water each day at home. Poor people in the developing world pay an average 12 times more per liter of water than fellow citizens connected to western world municipal systems. These poverty stricken people use less water, much of which is dirty and contaminated.
According to the UN 40% of the world’s population in 80 countries face water shortages. This number is expected to rise 50% by 2025. Some of the world’s largest cities, including Beijing, Buenos Aires, Dakar, Lima and Mexico City depend heavily on ground water for their water supply. It is unlikely that cities which are dependent on aquifers, which take many years to recharge, will have sufficient water in the coming years.
Improved water management has brought benefits to people in developing countries. In the past 20 years over 2.4 billion people have gained access to safe water supplies and 600 million to improved sanitation. Nevertheless, 1 in 6 people still have no regular access to safe drinking water. Those who have access to inadequate sanitation are the poorest and most vulnerable. The problem is particular in most rural and rapidly growing rural areas. In Africa 300 million people, 40% of the population lives without basic sanitation and hygiene, an increase of 70 million since 2000. As much as 90% of waste water in developing countries is discharged without treatment into rivers and streams. Unsanitary water which provides a breeding ground for parasites, amoebas and bacteria damage the health of 1.2 billion people a year. Water borne deceases are now responsible for 80% of illnesses and deaths in the developing world, killing a child every 8 seconds. Half the world’s hospital beds are occupied by people suffering from water borne deceases. Almost 40% of the world’s population lives within in 60km of the coast. Disease and death related to both coastal waters alone, cost the global economy US$16 billion a year.
Rivers form a hydrological mosaic on a map of the world, there are an estimated 263 international river basins which covers 45.3% of the earth’s land surface and are home to half the world’s human population. One third of these 263 trans-boundary basins are shared by more than two countries. Rarely do watershed boundaries coincide with administrative boundaries. Many countries also share ground water aquifers and it is envisaged that there will be many problems in the future as the commodity becomes more and more scarce. Ground water aquifers store as much as 98% of accessible water supplies; they provide 50% of global drinking water, 30% of industrial demands and 20% of water in agriculture. On average individual daily domestic use of fresh water in developed countries is 10 times more than in developing countries. In the UK, the average person uses 135 liters of water every day. In the developing world, the average person uses 10 liters.
Fresh water is essential for food security.
Most of our fresh water is used to grow food. While the daily drinking water needs of every person is approximately 4 liters. Between 2-5 thousand liters of water are needed to produce an individual’s daily food requirement. Agriculture accounts for over 80% of world’s water consumption. It is estimated that between 14-17% more water will be needed for irrigation by 2030 to feed the worlds growing population. 60% of water used for irrigation is wasted. A 10% improvement of irrigation efficiency could double the drinking water supply for the poor. In Africa most of the population’s proteins come from fresh water fisheries.
Two hundred scientists in 50 countries have identified water shortages as one of the two most worrying problems for the new millennium, the other is climate change. Since 1950 global water use has more than tripled. On current trends over the next 20 years humans will use 40% more water than they do now. The number of people living in water stressed countries is predicted to climb from the 470 million to 3 billion by 2025. Most of these people live in the developing world.
To achieve the 2015 targets for fresh water provisions, water supplies will have to reach an additional 1.5 billion people in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean. Nearly 200 million people in Africa are facing serious water shortages, by 2025 nearly 230 million Africans will face water scarcity and 460 million will be living in water stressed countries. Water problems are more related to mismanagement than scarcity. Up to 50% of urban water and 60% of water used in agriculture is wasted through leaks and evaporation. Logging and land conversion to accommodate human’s demands has shrunk the world’s forests by half contributing to increase soil erosion and water scarcity.
Between 300-400 million people worldwide, live close to and depend on wetlands. Wetlands act as highly efficient filtration system of streams absorbing chemicals and filtering bacteria, pollutants and sediments. Urban agricultural and industrial development has claimed half the world’s wetlands. Sustainable development and poverty alleviation will only be achieved through better management and investment in rivers, aquifers and wet lands and the lands that are drained into them.
What is a water footprint?
A water footprint is a measurement of how much water someone uses in a set period of time. Water footprints encompass not only the water directly used by the consumer but the water indirectly used to produce consumer goods. In addition to looking at individual water footprints it is also possible to consider the footprint of nations, companies and demographic groups. This concept was developed in 2002 is part of an overall UN effort to raise awareness about water consumption and to address the scarcity of the global water supply.
Water is a critical resource. At home, people use water to drink, cook, bathe and wash but water is also involved in the production of every type consumer goods ranging from food produce to paper. In order to gauge someone’s footprint accurately the assessment must consider the persons eating habits, lifestyle and so forth. Water footprints often rely on lifestyles lived by other people in the community. Americans for example have very large water footprints due to their reliance on animal products and corn for food, while people in remote regions of Africa often have very small water footprints because of their diet and lifestyle.
Water footprints include the amount of fresh water used directly and indirectly along with the amount of water which would evaporate to meet the needs of the consumer and the amount of water which is polluted. At every step of the way, improvements can be made to reduce the size of a water footprint for e.g.: tighter controls on agriculture pollution can reduce a water footprint on meat consumption, while using water reclamations in factories can reduce the amount of wastage fresh water in the production of consumer goods.
Here are some examples of the water used to produce some consumer goods:
||Cotton T-shirt - 2700 liters of water
In order to get 1kg of final cotton textile one requires 11 000 liters of water for 1 kg of cotton. Thus we have a shirt of a weight of 250g – this shirt costs 2700 liters of water. Of this total water volume 40-45% is irrigation water consumed by the cotton plant, 41% is rain water evaporated during the cropping period and 14% of water required to dilute the waste water flows that result from the fertilizers in the field and use of chemicals used in the textile industry. Globally the annual cotton production evaporates 210 billion cubic liters of water and pollutes 50 billion cubic liters of water. This is 3.5 % of the global water used for production.
||One cup of coffee - 140 liters of water
It costs about 21 000 liters of water to produce 1kg of roasted coffee. For a standard cup of coffee, we require 7g of roasted coffee, so a cup of coffee costs 140 liters of water assuming that a standard cup of coffee is 125ml we thus need more than 1100 drops of water for producing one drop of coffee.
||100g bar of chocolate – 2400 liters of water
The water footprint of pure chocolate is 2400 liters for a 400g bar. Composition of dark chocolate – 40% cocoa paste, 20% cocoa butter, 40% sugar. We can then calculate it uses 33 260 liters of water for 1kg of pure cocoa. 1kg of sugar – 1500 liters of water
||1kg of tomatoes – 180 liters of water
||1 glass of wine – 120 liters of water
||1 hamburger – 2400 liters of water
The major part of a footprint of a hamburger refers to water needed to make the feed for the cow.
||1kg of leather – 16600 liters of water
||1 sheet of A4 paper – 10 liters of water
Everybody is becoming aware of a water footprint but it’s not just about, let me take a shower instead of a bath, or I will use a short flush in the toilet and I will turn the tap off when I am brushing my teeth. Most people think that there water footprint is about saving water and don’t realize exactly what their water footprint is.
Green Earth Africa will explain it very briefly what it is all about.
A water footprint is actually about the businesses that produce all the products which you consume. Most of these products are now imported and reflect on the water footprint of that business from the country where that product derived. So you may be sitting in the western world in a developed country eating fresh vegetables out of season like strawberries, mange tout peas, pineapples, these are all imported from other countries where water has been used to produce these products. This is all part of the water footprint and these countries which use their resources and water to produce these products for export to other countries has a VIRTUAL water footprint. This means their water is being used to produce a product which is being consumed in another country.
The water footprint of a business is measured by considering two elements: - the companies operation and supply chain. The first measurement looks at the direct fresh water used. The amount of fresh water used in the business itself. The supply chains water footprint refers to the indirect fresh water use, the water used to produce all the goods and services that form the input of the business.
A water footprint carries three components, blue, green and grey water. The blue water footprint is the volume of fresh water that evaporated from the global blue water resources, that’s surface and ground water. The green water footprint is volume of water evaporated from the global green resources, that’s rain water stored in soil. The grey water footprint is the volume of polluted water associated with the production of goods and services. The water footprint is a geographically explicit indicator, showing not only the volumes of water used and pollution but also the locations.
In business water neutrality is used as a tool to offset the social and environmental impacts of a company’s water footprint. The idea is to stimulate corporations to make their activity water neutral by investing in water saving technology, water conservation measures, waste water treatment, and water supply to those who do not have a proper water supply. In other words, a water neutral business reduces and offsets the adverse and environmental and social consequence of water use. In strict sense the term, water neutral, is misleading. While it is possible to reduce a company’s water footprint through pollution prevention and water reuse it is absolutely impossible to bring it down to zero. Some producers such as agricultural companies which grow crops and manufacturing companies inherently need water to operate and produce and because these processes don’t necessary need to replace the water used most businesses will have a residual water footprint. The idea is therefore to become water neutral and introduce a cap and trade system for water similar to the introduced or proposed introduction of a cap and trade system for carbon. As we all know it is impossible to live without producing carbon, but it is possible to reduce the amount of carbon we produce.
In order to be water neutral a business should meet at least two requirements, first they must do the most humanly possible to reduce their water footprint. This is most urgent in regions where the impact of the water footprint is high, second the company must offset its residual water footprint by making a reasonable investment in establishing or supporting projects which aim to reduce water use and make water use sustainable and equitable. One of the best ways of a business can improve its operation of water usage is through technology. A business can also use it to position and market influence to reduce their water footprint , i.e. Wal-Mart, Tesco’s, after all it is not impossible to switch to another supplier that has a lower footprint, even if the price is slightly higher for their produce, in the long term it could end up cheaper. It is important to note that a business relying on a supply chain that cannot be characterized as water neutral is not water neutral itself. After reviewing what a business can do to reduce his operational footprint, a business has several options for offsetting its residual footprint: for instance: it can invest in the development of its own water projects or it can provide funds to support all projects run by others. The size of the investment (the offset or payoff price) should be a function of the vulnerability of the region where the water footprint is located. A water footprint in a water scarce area or in an area of suffering a period of drought is worse and thus requires a larger offset than an area of similar size that is not suffering from a water scarcity or drought.
Still at its early stages of development, the water neutral concept is subjective. There is no consensus about the level of effort considered reasonable to reducing an existing water footprint and likewise there is no standard for what can reasonably be expected of a company to offset their residual water footprint. As we move forward. Obtaining water neutrality in a business some key questions should be addressed.
||How much of a reduction of water footprint can reasonably be expected?
Is this performance achieved by implying so called better management practices in agriculture or best available technology in irrigation or manufacturing? How long does one deal with totally new products or activities.
||What is an appropriate water offset price?
What type of efforts count as an offset, ideally where the projects or payments efforts should be focused on those specific areas where water footprint has the greatest impact?
|| At what time should mitigation activities be spread and how long should they last?
If the footprint is measured at one period of time then when should the offset become effective?
Many countries are putting in legislation now restricting the amount of water which can be used or imposing fines for companies who are not reducing their water footprint. A very good example of this legislation was made in Toronto, Canada. A large construction firm owing a block of 400 condominiums where told to reduce the condominiums water usage by 30%. After studying the impact of this on the building and how to reduce the water consumption/footprint, a solution was achieved by replacing all the toilets cisterns throughout the whole building to reduce the water consumption/ footprint by 30%. This meant if the building was using 1 million gallons of water a day they had to reduce it by 300 000 gallons of water. To do this it would cost US$8 million and take six months to implement to save 300 000 gallons of water per day. What this company did was go to a large established farmer who was using a very out dated irrigation system. The system that he was using was an overhead sprinkler irrigation system which is 90% inefficient as only 10% of the water is used by the crops under irrigation the other 90% is lost by run- off and evaporation. This farmer was using 100 million gallons of water per day. The construction company invested US$4 million in the farmers operation to upgrade the farmer’s irrigation system to a high tech drip irrigation system which is 90% efficient. Drip irrigation puts water directly at the roots of the crops, very little is lost through evaporation or run off. The farmer then saved 90% of the water, so from using 100 million gallons a day, his water consumption was reduced to 10 million gallons per day and a saving of 90 million gallons per day. This didn’t even take into account the savings on electricity and a reduction in the carbon footprint of this farming operation. The construction company who financed new irrigation infrastructure saved US$2 million and then had a water credit of 90 million gallons of water. This company then traded this water credit of 90 million gallons and recovered the full US$4 million dollars which was invested into upgrading this particular farming operating irrigation infrastructure.
Many companies import a lot of products from Africa, mainly agricultural products; unfortunately the farmer at the bottom of the chain does not benefit from any of this international trade and is paid rock bottom local producer prices, often below the cost of production. The middlemen take this produce, package it, make it look nice, put it on an airplane, put it on boats and ship it all over the world to export destinations and receive a substantially higher price. This product then goes into the supermarkets, where there is another markup and the retailers receive far greater returns than the actual primary producer, which is the local African farmer. Many of these farmers rely on rainfall as they do not have the irrigation infrastructure or the financial means to develop and install irrigation infrastructure. Through a trade in water offsets, Green Earth Africa, is in a position with its agreements in place with governments to manage underground and surface water resources which are plentiful throughout Africa but underdeveloped, unserviced water catchments and to trade these water offsets with large corporations in the western world which have a water footprint and have very expensive or no alternative means of reducing their water footprint. Places like Wal-Mart, Tesco’s, Coca Cola, Nestle, Pepsi, the giant supermarket chains, are almost fully reliant on products produced by other companies but are part of the virtual water footprint chain. One way of overcoming their impact on the global water footprint picture is by buying water offsets through Green Earth Africa and the money which is received for the purchase of these water offsets, Green Earth Africa will invest this money in Africa in modern irrigation systems for local farmers. It will work with governments in conjunction with other companies such as Earth Water Global in installing new and more efficient water infrastructures throughout cities and towns which have very little access to safe and clean drinking water. Through the drilling of boreholes in outlying rural regions, using funds from water trade Green Earth Africa will be instrumental with providing clean and safe drinking water to millions of people with no access to this natural resource. Through the drilling of these boreholes and new irrigation infrastructure the quality of the crops produced will be substantially better than what is being produced and this production will be safe guarded during dry periods which are very common throughout Africa, ensuring that the farmer has a high value produce to sell. Green Earth Africa will assist these farmers in the marketing of their product using fair trade practices to ensure that this farmer receives the best price for the best produce that they produce.
Green Earth Africa will also not limit the trade in these water offsets or credits for irrigation and human consumption but will also be involved in the drilling of boreholes and the construction of water holes in some of the conservancies which Green Earth Africa has under their management thereby increasing the species of wild life in that particular area. Green Earth Africa is not only offering these water credits to large multinational companies and businesses but are also offering on an individual personal basis. You can purchase water credits for yourself or as a gift by following the link to purchase your water offset. Each offset comes with a unique Green Earth Africa water offset certificate which will be shipped to your address. Purchase water credits alongside your other personal offsets and accumulate your credits which can then be spent on in our community products store or redeem your offset points for flights, accommodation and Green Earth Africa will have the pleasure of flying you down to our part of the world and stay in one of our various locations .Become part of the team, get involved in drilling boreholes, get involved in the farming, get involved in the game counts, become part of the team, have a fantastic holiday in Africa whilst contributing to the wildlife and the community and the global crisis. Apply for your offset card now by following the link to our offset purchase page.
Green Earth Africa are also establishing a futures water market where you can secure a certain amount of water for use for yourself or your business for future generations i.e. you can buy a set volume of water now knowing that this volume that you have purchased is secure for next 25 or 50 years, whatever number years you choose. Green Earth Africa have also entered into an agreement with a middle eastern company, whereby they will be shipping bulk water through a yet to be built pipeline to the east coast of Africa and this will be loaded into tankers and will be shipped up to the middle east. This method of shipping water produces a whole new income stream within governments of southern Africa. It also enhances water security for the Middle East and uses far less energy and far less carbon emmitance than desalinating water from the Gulf. As everyone is aware desalinating water uses enormous amounts of energy.
Green Earth Africa for seethe future trade in water as the new oil. Everybody can live without oil but nobody can live without water. Africa has vast untapped sources of water but unfortunately it is not readily available to the people who live on top or around this resource. Green Earth Africa through trading this water is hoping to reverse this situation and be instrumental in supplying clean and safe drinking water to millions and millions of people throughout Africa. Catch the Wave, get wet, and get involved!