Water Footprint Benchmarks for the United States

2019 Winter Cyberseminar Series

Landon Marston / Kansas State University

Talk Description

Water is a fundamental input in a wide range of economic activities that support our way of life, ranging from the food we eat, the energy we use to power our homes, and the many consumer goods we purchase. Predicted population growth and an improved standard of living will necessitate greater economic production, which will place additional strain on critical water resources. Realizing this, and acknowledging that many areas already face significant water stress and/or overexploitation, there have been persistent calls to reduce water use to more sustainable levels. One frequently proposed means to do this is to determine water footprint benchmarks based on the most efficient water users within each economic industry. These benchmarks can be used by a given industry, or for a given production process, to guide toward reasonable and more sustainable levels of water use. This solution elicits an obvious and, until now, unanswered question: for a given industry, what is considered a ‘reasonable’ use of water? Here, we answer this question using a new water footprint database that provides industry-level detail (over 500 industries and products) and spatially explicit water withdrawal and consumption estimates per unit of production for the United States. We set water use benchmarks for each industry based on water-use efficiency levels achieved by others in the industry facing similar constraints. In doing so, we highlight specific industries and locations in the United States that could significantly reduce their water footprint by utilizing existing water management strategies and technologies.

CUAHSI's 2019 Winter Cyberseminar Series: The U.S. Food Energy and Water System at the Mesoscale

Hosted by Benjamin Ruddell, Northern Arizona University

The Food, Energy, and Water (FEW) system in the United States is characterized by connections at all scales, but especially by connections at the mesoscale defined by watersheds, cities, irrigation districts, and counties. At these scales transfers of water, flows of goods and services, and socio-economic gradients form the patterns that capture most of the structure in the complete FEW system. This cyberseminar series presents the current work on the mesoscale FEW system in the U.S., including studies of its network structure, its embedded resources and footprints, its boundaries, its stakeholders, its vulnerability and resilience dynamics, and emerging data products and best practices.