Integrated Footprint Approach: Need for integrating Carbon and Water footprint into a “Footprint Family – They are closely intertwined?

Sustainable Agriculture, MSME & Green Value Chain Finance | Priority Sector Finance | Manoj Rawat, ValueFin India

Integrated Footprint Approach: Need for integrating Carbon and Water footprint into a “Footprint Family – They are closely intertwined?





Integrated Footprint Approach: Need for integrating Carbon and Water footprint into a “Footprint Family” – They are closely intertwined?



A carbon footprint is defined as “the total sets of greenhouse gas emissions caused by an organization, event, product or person.”[ A carbon footprint is composed of two parts, a primary and secondary footprint. The primary footprint is the sum of the direct carbon dioxide emissions of burning of fossil fuels, like domestic energy consumption by furnaces and waters heaters, and transportation, like automobiles and airplane travel. The secondary footprint is the sum of indirect emissions associated with the manufacture and breakdown of all products, services and food an individual or business consumes.




The water footprint of an individual, community or business is defined as the total volume of freshwater used to produce the goods and services consumed by the individual or community or produced by the business. Water use is measured in water volume consumed (evaporated) and/or polluted per unit of time. A water footprint consists of three components:


  1. Blue water – fresh water in lakes, rivers, aquifers
  2. Green water – water from rainwater stored in soil
  3. Grey water – polluted water


There have been attempts to develop an integrated Footprint approach for the assessment of the environmental impacts of production and consumption.






It’s important the world’s ecological assets should become central for decision makers around the world and accounting for direct and indirect implications of actions in other sectors. The need is to search for sustainability, decision making approach sustainable development through the climate change glasses. Looking at carbon in isolation rather than overall resources like water, food, timber, marine, and many other resources has become more relevant today.


We need to recognize that Carbon and Water Footprints complement traditional analyses of human demand by coupling producer and consumer perspectives. These indicators present a quantifiable and rational basis on which to begin discussions and develop answers regarding the efficiency of production processes, the limits of resource consumption, the international distribution of the world’s natural resources, and how to address the sustainability of the resources across the globe.


Bringing Carbon and Water Footprint together under a single streamlined ecological-economic modeling framework would strengthen the robustness and consistency of the Footprint Family concept as this would enable an inter-industry analysis of the linkages across multiple economies as well as a better assessment of the trade-offs among the three indicators.


The integrated concept would help understanding the diverse pressures human activities place on the planet. It represents a quantifiable and rational basis on which we limits the use of  freshwater consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, as well as on how to address the sustainability of natural capital use across the globe. The two indicators selected are characterized by the capacity to represent the environmental consequences of human activities and have to be regarded as complementary in the sustainability of resources and planet as whole.


The Water and Carbon Footprint may cover a wide-enough range of environmental policies and, particularly for what concern sustainable production and consumption issues. In country like India where 70% of irrigation water is dependent on ground water with free energy and limited regulation around ground water this makes lot more sense.


India has about 16 per cent of the world’s population as compared to only 4 per cent of its water resources. Severe water shortages have led to a growing number of conflicts between users in the agricultural and industrial sectors, as also the domestic sector. The lack of water availability and poor management practices have also manifested in poor sanitation facilities, one among the biggest environmental and social challenges India faces today. Lack of access to safe drinking water and sanitation can be related to economic, political and social power imbalances, and discrimination against certain groups or communities.


The focus has to be to evolve an environment where water is available for all in a sustainable manner – safe drinking water for basic needs, adequate water for agriculture, water for industry and for the ecosystem.  The Government specifically needs to ensure sure that agricultural policies are coherent with goals of water protection. The national targets on water footprint reduction should be translated to specific reduction targets for products, producers and sectors.


Manoj Rawat


The views expressed in this article are purely personal.


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