The external water footprint of the Netherlands: geographically explicit quantification and impact assessment

P.R. van Oel, Mesfin Mekonnen, Arjen Ysbert Hoekstra

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Abstract

This study quantifies the external water footprint of the Netherlands by partner country and import product and assesses the impact of this footprint by contrasting the geographically-explicit water footprint with water scarcity in the different parts of the world. The total water footprint of the Netherlands is estimated to be about 2300 m3/year/cap, of which 67% relates to the consumption of agricultural goods, 31% to the consumption of industrial goods, and 2% to domestic water use. The Dutch water footprint related to the consumption of agricultural goods, is composed as follows: 46% related to livestock products; 17% oil crops and oil from oil crops; 12% coffee, tea, cocoa and tobacco; 8% cereals and beer; 6% cotton products; 5% fruits; and 6% other agricultural products. About 11% of the water footprint of the Netherlands is internal and 89% is external. Only 44% of virtual-water import relates to products consumed in the Netherlands, thus constituting the external water footprint. For agricultural products this is 40% and for industrial products this is 60%. The remaining 56% of the virtual-water import to the Netherlands is re-exported. The impact of the external water footprint of Dutch consumers is highest in countries that experience serious water scarcity. Based on indicators for water scarcity the following eight countries have been identified as most seriously affected: China; India; Spain; Turkey; Pakistan; Sudan; South Africa; and Mexico. This study shows that Dutch consumption implies the use of water resources throughout the world, with significant impacts in water-scarce regions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)82-92
Number of pages11
JournalEcological economics
Volume69
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2009

Keywords

  • IR-76064
  • METIS-258690
  • Virtual water
  • External water footprint
  • Netherlands
  • Water scarcity

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