The water footprint of wood for lumber, pulp, paper, fuel and firewood

Joseph Franciscus Schyns, Martijn J. Booij, Arjen Y. Hoekstra

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

50 Citations (Scopus)
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This paper presents the first estimate of global water use in the forestry sector related to roundwood production for lumber, pulp, paper, fuel and firewood. For the period 1961-2010, we estimate forest evaporation at a high spatial resolution level and attribute total water consumption to various forest products, including ecosystem services. Global water consumption for roundwood production increased by 25% over 50 years to 961×109 m3/y (96% green; 4% blue) in 2001-2010. The water footprint per m3 of wood is significantly smaller in (sub)tropical forests compared to temperate/boreal forests, because (sub)tropical forests host relatively more value next to wood production in the form of other ecosystem services. In terms of economic water productivity and energy yield from bio-ethanol per unit of water, roundwood is rather comparable with major food, feed and energy crops. Recycling of wood products could effectively reduce the water footprint of the forestry sector, thereby leaving more water available for the generation of other ecosystem services. Intensification of wood production can only reduce the water footprint per unit of wood if the additional wood value per ha outweighs the loss of value of other ecosystem services, which is often not the case in (sub)tropical forests. The results of this study contribute to a more complete picture of the human appropriation of water, thus feeding the debate on water for food or feed versus energy and wood.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)490-501
Number of pages12
JournalAdvances in water resources
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2017


  • Bioenergy
  • Ecosystem services
  • Evapotranspiration
  • Forestry
  • Timber
  • Water consumption


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