Water footprint applied in industry

Industry Water Network Group meeting report

On 18 September the Industry Water Network Group discussed the application in industry of the water footprint tool of the Water Footprint Network. Heineken and Shell shared their practical experience with the tool. Particularly the so-called ‘grey water footprint’ (determined by the amount of water needed to dilute pollutants) is rather puzzling and difficult to interpret in practice. And the water used for the raw materials often accounts for a larger part of the footprint than do the internal operational processes. The water footprint should, by increasing awareness, contribute to a more sustainable water use.

On Wednesday, 18 September, a workshop was held at KWR for the Industry Water Network Group. The theme was the significance and value of the Water Footprint as a tool for industry. The keynote speaker was Rick Hogeboom, director of the Water Footprint Network, who is also associated with the research group of Arjen Hoekstra, professor of water management at the University of Twente.

Green, blue and grey water footprints

Hogeboom said that the water footprint of companies is first of all a matter of awareness: realising where water is most used in the cycle from raw materials to product. The Water Footprint Network defines three types of water footprint: rainwater used (green water footprint), groundwater and surface water used (blue water footprint), and the volume of water required to dilute polluted water for it to meet quality standards (grey water footprint). Moreover, a water footprint is often mainly determined by the water used for the raw material inputs and less by the internal operational processes themselves.

But awareness itself is not enough, says Hogeboom. Ultimately, the water footprint must lead to concrete measures to increase the sustainability of water use.

 Waterschaarste wereldwijd (grond- en oppervlaktewater)

Water shortages worldwide (groundwater and surface water).

Practice: Heineken and Shell

The presentation of the Heineken and Shell practical cases, explained by Ron Bohlmeijer and Albert Janssen respectively, showed that Heineken does actually focus on the internal water cycle. Both Heineken and Shell think that the grey water footprint is in practice rather puzzling and difficult to interpret. Moreover, they don’t believe that it is helpful in decision-making. In other words, there is another challenge for the Water Footprint Network.

Industry Water Network Group

Through the Industry Water Network Group, KWR’s Industry, Wastewater & Reuse team provides industrial partners with a platform in which they can make and maintain contacts, and share and transfer knowledge. The participants have assured access to three exclusive morning meetings of the Industry Water Network Group, where they gather with members of a valuable network of industrial end-users. They can also participate for free in three KWR theme afternoons (workshops/seminars), which are focused on the presentation of applied scientific research and case studies from practice. The Industry Water Network Group’s meetings address current developments in technology, research, legislation and Europe, for instance. The participating companies present their activities relating to water, and discuss any issues they encounter.