Sustainable consumption and production is one of the main challenges for humanity and an important part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development of the United Nations. This is primarily the case for the agricultural sector, which accounts for around 70% of the world’s total water withdrawals, 11% of the land and represents 30% of the total energy consumption.
The Water Observatory has developed a wide range of studies and activities related to the water footprint and environmental sustainability of food consumption and agricultural production. The results are reflected in 8 monographs of the Virtual Water Paper (PAV) series and the book “Water footprint and virtual water trade in Spain: Policy Implications“, the interdisciplinary monograph “Water footprint and virtual water in Cantabria“ jointly developed with Aqualia and the Government of Cantabria, and in the doctoral theses on ‘Implications of agricultural production, policy and land use changes on water resource assessment‘ and ‘Influence of external drivers on water use efficiency and sustainability in agricultural production‘.
A distinctive feature of the Water Observatory work is that apart from analysing the “classic” water footprint (i.e. uses of water), it incorporates other economic, social and environmental indicators, which reinforce the study to achieve a deeper analysis, also called the “extended” water footprint. In all these studies, the economic water productivity has been considered.
Classroom and online water footprint courses are organized in coordination with the CEIGRAM, Water Footprint Network and more recently with FCIHS.
These topics have also been addressed in several national and international seminars. The last national seminar on “Indicators of environmental impacts of food products”deserves special attention.
In recent years, the Water Observatory research has focused on sustainable consumption and production patterns through the water footprint of consumption analysis, for example, the ‘Water footprint of the Mediterranean and North American diets‘ and food waste.