Complementary indicators: ecological & water footprint

Here some applications of this synergistic pair of indicators are provided - and hopefully a discussion will emerge on how to make better use of the valuable information that those indicators provide. Also, what may be the advantages knowledge-wise to add other data such as the nitrogen footprint?


USEPA's California Footprint Sustainability Indicators for Decision Support

An effort "California Footprint Sustainability Indicators for Decision Support" led by
the USEPA is underway. The two major components of this effort are the development of
ecological and water footprints. The Global Footprint Network leads the ecological footprint
analysis, while DWR and UC Davis, in partnership with USEPA, lead the development of the
water footprint analysis.

From a presentation by Hodge and Fong on the subject:
Indicators of California's Sustainability
Why Footprints?
• Summarize and convey large body of information
• Use an accessible metaphor
Why Two Footprints?
• Complementary, more comprehensive
- Ecological Footprint addresses terrestrial resources (and fisheries) in units of area
- Water Footprint addresses water resources in units of volume

More information:


The California Water Sustainability Indicators Framework
as of February 5, 2012

From the project report:
How Are Indicators Connected to Ecological and Water Footprints?
The basic idea of the ecological footprint is that our activities and physical infrastructure
measurably affect an area or other portion of ecosystems (the "ecological footprint"). For
example, the land‐area required to supply an average US resident with food is ~2.4 acres. The
irrigation and other water requirements for providing food and other needs can be measured
as a volume of water, (the "water footprint"). In the US, the per capita water footprint is 2,480
m3/yr, the largest in the world (Hoekstra, 2009). These approaches for measuring our effect on
different attributes of natural systems rely on a combination of understanding how human
endeavors occur in ecological domains and how much of an ecological attribute may be
affected. Indicators are a way to measure these endeavors and ecological attributes. This
provides a connection between the more traditional world of condition indicators and a
comprehensive way of measuring and describing our effects on natural systems.
In Phase II of the Water Sustainability Indicators project, we will include the water footprint as
an important index of human impacts to water systems. It will not replace other indicators, but
will serve as a composite index of multiple indicators of human uses of water and impact on
natural systems.

Detailed information: