New study: A water footprint assessment of a pair of jeans: the influence of agricultural policies on the sustainability of consumer products

In a recent publication in Journal of Cleaner Production (Chico et al., 2013) the authors Chico, Aldaya and Garrido provide an in-depth analysis of jeans production using water footprint assessment and clearly show the value of the third phase of water footprint assessment, the sustainability assessment phase, for supporting decision making.

Title of the study:

A water footprint assessment of a pair of jeans: the influence of agricultural policies on the sustainability of consumer products

by
Daniel Chico, Maite M. Aldaya, Alberto Garrido
Water Observatory of the Botin Foundation and Research Centre for the Management of Agricultural and Environmental Risk (CEIGRAM); Technical University of Madrid, Madrid, Spain; Water Observatory of the Botin Foundation, Complutense University of Madrid and Consultant UNEP, Spain

Reference and link to study publication:
Daniel Chico, Maite M. Aldaya, Alberto Garrido, A water footprint assessment of a pair of jeans: the influence of agricultural policies on the sustainability of consumer products, Journal of Cleaner Production, Available online 20 June 2013, ISSN 0959-6526, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jclepro.2013.06.001.
(http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S095965261300382X)

Abstract:
This study reports the results of a water footprint (WF) assessment of five types of textiles commonly used for the production of jeans, including two different fibres (cotton and Lyocell fibre) and five corresponding production methods for spinning, dyeing and weaving. The results show that the fibre production is the stage with the highest water consumption, being cotton production particularly relevant. Therefore, the study pays particular attention to the water footprint of cotton production and analyses the effects of external factors influencing the water footprint of a product, in this case, the incentives provided by the EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), and the relevance of agricultural practices to the water footprint of a product is emphasised. An extensification of the crop production led to higher WF per unit, but a lower overall pressure on the basins' water resources. This study performs a sustainability assessment of the estimated cotton WFs with the water scarcity index, as proposed by Hoekstra et al. (2011), and shows their variations in different years as a result of different water consumption by crops in the rest of the river basin. In our case, we applied the assessment to the Guadalquivir, Guadalete and Barbate river basins, three semi-arid rivers in South Spain. Because they are found to be relevant, the available water stored in dams and the outflow are also incorporated as reference points for the sustainability assessment. The study concludes that, in the case of Spanish cotton production, the situation of the basin and the policy impact are more relevant for the status of the basin's water resources than the actual WF of cotton production. Therefore, strategies aimed at reducing the impact of the water footprint of a product need to analyse both the WF along the value chain and within the local context.


Reference mentioned in the abstract:
Hoekstra, A.Y., Chapagain, A.K., Aldaya, M.M. and Mekonnen, M.M. (2011) The water footprint assessment manual: Setting the global standard, Earthscan, London, UK.
available at:
http://www.waterfootprint.org/?page=files/WaterFootprintAssessmentManual