Chile to Measure Water 'footprint'

SANTIAGO, Chile, Oct. 18 (UPI) — Chile says it has embarked on a program to determine the “water footprint” of some of its export products to assess both the potential and limits of production.

The water footprint is the total volume of fresh water used in the production of goods and services and can be calculated for a specific product, an individual company or an entire country.

“Perhaps the water footprint will not follow the same critical path as the carbon footprint, but it does call companies’ attention to rethinking their water resource management,” said Rodrigo Acevedo, head of agro-industry projects at the Chile Foundation, one of the entities measuring the footprint.

It’s a matter of “changing the paradigm,” Acevedo said, and will obligate companies to “go beyond the legal spheres,” like water use rights, and consider how their water consumption will affect the sustainability of local watersheds and of their own businesses.

In a pilot effort, Chile is measuring the water footprint of products and companies in the northern region of Atacama, which is a semi- desert area with little water resources and for-export agriculture, Inter Press Service reported Monday.

The results will be ready in December for six farming companies in the Atacama’s Copiapo and Huasco regions, which produce table grapes, avocados, olives and vegetables.

As a heavy exporter, Chile decided to initiate its own water footprint effort, Acevedo said, and not wait for the international community to impose disadvantageous parameters.

He believes such parameters will be a reality in two or three years, in the form of “sustainable water” certification to assure produce does not come from inappropriate or stressed watersheds.

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