The State of Consumptive Water Use Accounting and Impact Assessment

Ingram, Spencer Meriwether, Department of Environmental Sciences, University of Virginia
Scanlon, Todd, Department of Environmental Sciences, University of Virginia
Macko, Stephen, Department of Environmental Sciences, University of Virginia
Reidenbach, Matt, Department of Environmental Sciences, University of Virginia

Transportation innovations in the early 19th century and inter-continental price convergences affecting domestic markets and resulting in political protections marked the unprecedented beginning of globalization (O'Rourke, 2000). As a consequence, pollution, environmental degradation, and economic and social disparities are no longer geographically independent. Water use involves complex political, economical and social issues that will need to be addressed as increased demand and environmental change increases water scarcity and quality world-wide. Water Footprinting emerged in the past decade as an accounting system for consumptive water use. However, it is unclear how volumetric reporting provides a comparative tool for decision making that promotes the transition towards sustainable, fair and efficient use of fresh water resources globally. Although water use and the subsequent impacts may be regional or catchment specific, I will argue that consumption impacts are actually a global phenomenon that requires a universally comparable utility for efficient management to protect the economic, social and environmental interests of the global community. This paper investigates the state of water footprinting as a candidate for consumptive water use management strategy and then introduces life cycle assessment as a model utility for impact assessment.

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MA (Master of Arts)
consumptive water use, freshwater use, global impact
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