Assessing regional and global water footprints for the UK

Yang Yu, Klaus Hubacek, Kuishuang Feng, Dabo Guan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

203 Citations (Scopus)


The concept of the water footprint has been recently introduced as an important indicator for human-induced water consumption. The water footprint is defined as the total volume of water used during production and consumption of goods and services as well as direct water consumption by humans. Water is not only consumed directly but also indirectly in production processes. Therefore, calculating the water footprint enables us to quantify total water consumed along the whole global supply chain. In this paper, we develop a regional input-output (IO) model extended by water consumption coefficients to quantify the respective domestic water footprint for different consumption categories for the South-East and North-East of England and the UK, i.e. the water consumed directly and indirectly along the regional supply chain. In addition, we calculate the total water footprints which include both domestic water consumption and the water required in other countries to produce goods and services imported and consumed in the region under investigation through applying a multi-regional input-output (MRIO) model. Both footprints also include households' direct consumption of water. With regards to the two regions, we can observe a very pronounced regional disparity of regional (domestic and total) water footprints between the relatively water-scarce South-East and the water-rich North-East of England. We find that the domestic water footprint per capita in the South-East is 22% higher than the domestic water footprint per capita in the North-East. The key water consumers include Agriculture, Food Products, Electricity and Gas Production, and Hotel and Catering. The total water footprints per capita in the South-East (1257 m3/year) are more than twice the ones in the North-East (597 m3/year). The domestic water footprint focuses only on the supply chain effects and associated water consumption within the regional boundaries, which are usually of higher interest to policy makers and water companies concerned with the balance of supply and demand of water resources within their respective administrative boundaries or watersheds. The total water footprint allows assessing global effects and supports global supply chain management and is also introducing notions of fairness and equity in terms of resource consumption.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1140-1147
Number of pages8
JournalEcological Economics
Issue number5
Early online date19 Jan 2010
Publication statusPublished - 15 Mar 2010


  • Backward and forward linkages
  • Domestic water footprint
  • Location quotient
  • Regional input-output tables
  • Sustainable consumption and production
  • Total water footprint
  • Water productivity

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