Santiago, Chile (UPI) Oct 21, 2010
Chile's industrial advancement has been achieved at some cost to the country's freshwater resources but it's only now that awareness of the impending crisis has led to calls for action, environmentalist campaigners said.
Chilean campaigners for a more intelligent and less destructive use of freshwater resources by industry are being helped by the Water Footprint Network, a non-profit organization that has headquarters at the University of Twente, Netherlands.
The Water Footprint Network has been measuring Chile's water footprint -- the quantity of freshwater used in the production of a specific product -- in about the same way that other organizations have been monitoring the carbon footprint of consumer and industrial activities.
The Dutch-led international body measures the direct and indirect water use by industry in the process of producing consumer products. A national average of water use is then measured for the production of specific goods or services.
A WFN study found that producing 1 pound of beef required 1,891 gallons of water, while a glass of beer could entail supply of more than 19 gallons of water, mostly on preparing barley for the process. More than 18 gallons of water go behind a tree producing a single apple.
Chilean lobbyists for more intelligent water use said that Chile would need to bring in new legislation to make sure water conservation and a more sensible use of fresh water resources was adhered to.
Several major institutions have already signed up to the Water Footprint Network but an overall government-led strategy is still awaited. The University of Chile, Fundacion Chile, Green Solutions consulting firms, and Concha y Toro, De Martino, and Errazuriz wineries are among institutions that have joined the campaign.
"The water footprint probably is not going to follow the same critical path as the carbon footprint, but it does call for companies to rethink the management of water resources," said Rodrigo Acevedo, project manager of agribusiness at Fundacion Chile, the non-profit foundation and think thank incorporated in 1976 after agreements between the Chilean government and ITT Corporation. The foundation fosters Chilean business and industrial growth through technological innovation and implementation.
Campaigners said that studies under way in Chile could provide critical information about the water usage by specific areas and also provide incentives for the companies to participate in the studies and contribute to more intelligence uses of freshwater resources.
Officials said Chilean exports could benefit from the drive toward a fairer use of freshwater resources.
The Water Footprint Network has previously assessed the impact of industrialization in China, Germany and Britain.
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