Application of the “Water Footprint” as an Assessment Tool

The concept of a “water footprint” is not universally accepted as a viable approach to setting policy. In the case of water, either you have it or you don’t. It is misleading to think that because 2 countries have shared water resources a “water footprint” calculation will make it any easier for 2 countries the share water resources. The “water footprint” values of 2 countries are not directly comparable even at the commodity-level because of differences in underlying societal values, beliefs and practices. Water utilization (e.g. water footprint) between countries may or may not result in peaceful cooperation in sharing water sources. A “water footprint” calculation may simply make it easier for countries to fight with each other over water. Comparing water use gallon for gallon is to consider water as money, dollar for dollar, regardless of how the water (or dollar) is used. Disagreements and disputes over how much water is needed will continue.

“Water footprint” calculations could be a useful tool. But it could also result in even more and sharper disputes. This study presents a reasonable approach to apply the “water footprint” as an assessment tool and not as a regulatory construct [nor an instrument of water law]. In all cases it is essential to calculate a “water footprint” using hard data.

Osama Sallam. Water footprints as an indicator for the equitable utilization of shared water resources: (Case study: Egypt and Ethiopia shared water resources in Nile Basin). Journal of African Earth Sciences. Dec2014, Vol. 100, p645-655.

The question of “equity.” is a vague and relative term in any event, criteria for equity are particularly difficult to determine in water conflicts, where international water law is ambiguous and often contradictory, and no mechanism exists to enforce principles which are agreed-upon. The aim of this study is using the water footprints as a concept to be an indicator or a measuring tool for the Equitable Utilization of shared water resources. Herein Egypt and Ethiopia water resources conflicts in Nile River Basin were selected as a case study. To achieve this study; water footprints, international virtual water flows and water footprint of national consumption of Egypt and Ethiopia has been analyzed. In this study, some indictors of equitable utilization has been gained for example; Egypt water footprint per capita is 1385 CM/yr/cap while in Ethiopia is 1167 CM/yr/cap, Egypt water footprint related to the national consumption is 95.15 BCM/yr, while in Ethiopia is 77.63 BCM/yr, and the external water footprints of Egypt is 28.5%, while in Ethiopia is 2.3% of the national consumption water footprint.  The most important conclusion of this study is; natural, social, environmental and economical aspects should be taken into account when considering the water footprints as an effective measurable tool to assess the equable utilization of shared water resources, moreover the water footprints should be calculated using a real data and there is a necessity to establishing a global water footprints benchmarks for commodities as a reference.

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