Learning from Water Footprints
who loses, who wins, and who cares?
The ‘footprint’ concept is widely used as an indicator to assess CO2 emissions and the water embodied in crop production. A comparison of key features reveals that CO2 footprints are a global concern no matter their location or source; water footprints only have local relevance, being locally generated and impacting only at local levels. As such, addressing excessive water use is a local concern. Where excessive use is not managed, a process of ‘chaotic disallocation’ from irrigated agriculture ensues, resulting in reduced local production and, through market mechanisms, increased demand elsewhere. Those areas where water scarcity is managed sustainably will see more profitable opportunities for irrigated production, though the impact on prices will be of little concern to consumers in the developed world.
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