NZLCM Technical Workshop on Water Footprinting

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

On Wednesday the 18th August 2010, the NZLCM Centre organised Technical Workshop on Water Footprinting at the MAF offices in Wellington.  The workshop was well attended by a range of people from industry, regional and national government and practitioners.

The session began with presentations on:

  • An overview of Water Footprinting issues (Brent Clothier, Plant & Food Research).
  • The approach used by the Water Footprinting Network (Ranvir Singh,Massey University)
  • The LCA approach to Water Footprinting (Anthony Hume, Landcare Research)
  • A hydrological approach to water footprinting, a modification of the LCA approach (Steve Green, Plant & Food Research)
  • Assessment of freshwater scarcity in New Zealand and comparisons between alternative methods for assessing freshwater scarcity (Indika Herath, PhD Student, Massey University)
  • Data and monitoring systems for water usage in New Zealand (Lian Potter & Jason Holland, Ministry for the Environment)

Following on from the presentations, a series of group discussions were held to discuss:

  • How water based metrics can support decision making from a country/government, product and/or organisation perspective.
  • Elements required in a water footprint indicator to support the different categories of decision-making.
  • Data requirements for water footprint indicators.

It was agreed that water footprinting would only be useful if used appropriately, alongside other environmental indicators, and as a “big picture” tool.  It was also agreed that it would be important to ensure consumers and growers had an understanding of the meaning of water footprints.  However, it is also important to remember that “you cannot manage what you do not measure”.

New Zealand is already well positioned to calculate water footprints with the monitoring measures being developed at the Ministry for the Environment, and it is likely that water footprints may provide a competitive advantage to at least some exported products. The next step for New Zealand will be to proactively prepare for measuring and monitoring of water footprints as the ISO Working Group on Water Footprinting develops an international standard.  This will mean entities collecting data (on water availability and use) and developing implementation plans for continuous improvement.