Using Water Footprints to Identify Alternatives for Conserving Local Water Resources in California
Abstract: As a management tool for addressing water consumption issues, footprints have become increasingly utilized on scales ranging from global to personal. A question posed by this paper is whether water footprint data that are routinely compiled for particular regions may be used to assess the effectiveness of actions taken by local residents to conserve local water resources. The current California drought has affected an agriculturally productive region with large population centers that consume a portion of the locally produced food, and the state’s arid climate demands a large volume of blue water as irrigation from its dwindling surface and ground water resources. Although California exports most of its food products, enough is consumed within the state so that residents shifting their food choices and/or habits could save as much or more local blue water as their reduction of household or office water use. One of those shifts is reducing the intake of animal-based products that require the most water of any food group on both a gravimetric and caloric basis. Another shift is reducing food waste, which represents a shared responsibility among consumers and retailers, however, consumer preferences ultimately drive much of this waste.