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Water Footprint


Currently, water is a very important natural resource. It is required in many industries for successful manufacturing and priority should be given for the use of water resources for maximum benefits   - including intelligent water management. ‘Water Footprint’ is an important environmental tool in accessing the amount of water consumption and water quality as it affects all facets of manufacturing both directly and indirectly. This helps maintain the demand for water at multiple manufacturing levels depending on the extent of the study i.e. the scope of the manufacturing process, the product and size of an organization etc. Water Footprint can be used to help analyze and assess the water consumption of the industrial sector in order to find ways to improve or promote the intelligent use of water resources in manufacturing. This also benefits water management and supports effective sustainability and aligns with important global environmental concerns as part of global market trade. Industry is required to prepare for water’s environmental impact assessment, including the issue of water resources and usage which have become increasingly important.

The Water Footprint concept began in 2002 and was introduced by Professor Arjen Y.Hoekstra, of the Netherlands. Today it is a concept that is gaining increased attention. The Water Footprint Calculator also depicts the amount of water that is inherent in a product which can also be used to assess the impact on production and trade with the use of water resources. It helps provide better understanding on issues such as water shortages and water pollution, as well as dealing with problems associated with overall production and supply chain. Currently evaluating the Water Footprint, can be accessed via many approaches, but the two most popular are the Water Footprint Network (WFN) and the International Standard Organization (ISO 14046).

The Water Footprint Assessment from WFN calculates the amount of water used in production and throughout the supply chain. Both direct and indirect systems reveal the water source and amount of waste water generated. This depends on geographical factors in the study area. The result of the consumption of water will vary because of different times and areas. The water is divided into three categories:


meaning natural rainfall and water in the form of moisture in the soil from plant extracts;
 

which refers to water from natural sources, including surface water and underground water sources such as water in rivers, irrigation projects, reservoirs and


Gray Water which refers to wastewater. By determining the amount of fresh water needed to dilute pollutants and contaminants to meet water standards before releasing the water. This is also dependent on water quality standards in the area.

To  evaluate the  Water Footprint from the ISO 14046 is to calculate water consumption of the production process organized on the basis of life cycle assessment (life cycle assessment: LCA)  its products or activities. This contributes to the assessment and report of water usage in general. It divides the water that enters the process into three categories:

1) Water Withdrawal - accessing the use of water from water sources including both permanent and temporary usage;
2) Water Consumption which refers to water being used regularly without return to the original water sources; and
3) Water Degradation - which refers to changes in water quality.

Currently, Thailand has no primary agency that is responsible for Water Footprint Assessment. Therefore, there are no guidelines for the preparation of the Water Footprint Assessment and Certification System for evaluating a Water Footprint. For Thailand, the Institute for Water Sustainability from the Federation of Thai Industries (FTI) is considering developing a Water Footprint Assessment system to promote and support the assessment of a Water Footprint and prepare and create a Certification System for a Water Footprint Assessment that is particularly suitable for Thailand.

The Benefits

 Help organizations determine the amount of water used in each of their activities. The information can be used to analyze, plan the use of water intelligently making it possible to reduce the cost of production and services. It can also increase the competitiveness of a business which helps to create a positive image and strengthens the company and its product. This encourages organizations to operate on a sustainable level.

Generate consumer awareness of the importance of water to produce products with a low Water Footprint and encourage consumers to purchase such products instead of those with a high water footprint or purchase the same product because lower water footprint in term of resources or production process. Today, consumer behavior is changing and more people are purchasing products with a low water footprint which helps alleviate the shortage of water in the world and leads to more sustainable consumption for the benefit of all.

 Water Footprint is considered to be a new challenge for industry. On one hand, business investment may shift to manufacture products that use water and lower water for waste water treatment. This bodes well for the world's water resources. On the other hand, businesses may use the Water Footprint as a tool to create a favorable image for their product or company as an operation that takes into account the environment and reflects strong social responsibility. This makes a product more attractive and creates greater value for a product or products (value added). 

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