The importance of calculating the water footprint to improve water use and efficiency – Energy Magazine

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Implementing Intelligent Information Systems, applying hydroponics or soilless cultivation, reusing and treating surplus water from irrigation and taking advantage of rainwater are just some of the measures leading to reducing the water footprint.

Almería, Spain.- Water is an essential resource for the survival of living beings. However, the increase in the world population, the high demand from the agricultural and industrial sectors, climate change and pollution are turning water into an increasingly scarce element. commemorate the world water dayis a way of reflecting and creating awareness about the importance of rational use of this essential resource.

Committed to water efficiency

Calculate the Water footprint It can be a good start on the path of commitment to reducing and optimizing water consumption. These indicators are more relevant if they derive from companies in the agricultural sector, to which 70% of total freshwater consumption is attributed. Hence The Union, as one of the reference companies in the commercialization of fruit and vegetables and as an environmentally responsible organization, has proposed to know its water impact in the production of one of its star products: the cucumber.

So La Unión, in collaboration with the consulting firm specializing in sustainability and climate change Ecoterraehas produced a detailed study of the Water impact of cucumber production in the 2019-2020 campaign. Specifically, they have focused on the processes of plantation, transport, packaging and storage of this product in the facilities of El Ejido, Almería.

Blue, green and gray water footprint

The Blue Water Footprint (HHA) responds to the amount of water that comes from surface or underground sources (rivers, springs, aquifers) and is used

for the production of a product. In general terms, this campaign has obtained a HHA of 50,558 m3/t.

According to data collected in the study, direct consumption is greater than indirect consumption for this indicator, constituting 60% of the HHA, while, from the point of view of processes, 60.44% of the HHA belongs to the plantation process, 39.54% to storage and only 0.02% to water consumption in cucumber transport.

Instead, the Green Water Footprint (HHV)related to the rainwater incorporated in the product is equal to zero, since cucumber cultivation is done under a greenhouse.

For its part, the Gray Water Footprint (HHG) indicates the level of contamination of fresh water derived from the entire production process. Here we have obtained a HHG of 73,101 m3/twhich is defined by the volume of fresh water required to assimilate the contaminant load, a consequence of the application of fertilizers during cucumber cultivation.

In total, during the study year there has been a consumption of water equal to 112,631.567 m3. Still, the Total Water Footprint of the cucumber produced by the company acquires a value of 123,659 m3/tonan amount that derives 59% from the HHG and 39% from the HHA.

According to the study, the water footprint has been reduced by 38% in the 2019/2020 campaign, in relation to the previous year, a positive data that marks the trend towards reducing the cucumber footprint.

Measures for rational and sustainable water consumption

Once those phases of the production process that generate a greater impact on the water resource have been identified, La Unión has implemented a series of measures that contribute to the savings and optimization of said consumption.

Some of these measures, already under way, are the implementation of intelligent computer systems that allow reduce up to 15% the annual consumption of water for irrigation, and the application of hydroponics or soilless cultivationan irrigation technique that allows a water savings of around 80% with respect to traditional irrigation systems and that also enables the recirculation of drainage. East Water Footprint Reduction Plan of the Union also contemplates a Intelligent Demand Tray that combined with the Radiation Probe, It reaches the ideal average drainage throughout all the irrigations of the day in hydroponic cultivation and achieves a saving of 15% of water consumption for irrigation.

In the short term, La Unión has studied the feasibility of incorporating as Green HH the volume of water collected from the rain to use it for irrigation of cucumber cultivation, which would help reduce water consumption for irrigation by 20%. Another of the proposals that would affect the impact of the Blue HH is the replacement of cardboard boxes by others with a better water consumption ratio, such as sustainable cardboard and/or reusable plastic.

Regarding the measures proposed to reduce HH Gray that affects water pollution, the possibility of dam excess irrigation water and subsequently treat it and reinject it into the aquifer, allowing a reduction of 10% of the Gray HH. The feasibility of substituting some fertilizers or phytosanitary products for others with less potential for contamination or ecological has also been studied.

Javier Carmona, MARCOM and director of CSR of La Unión, has indicated that “water is a non-renewable and limited natural resource and the food industry is one of the industries that consumes the most water, without forgetting the current period of drought that we are facing. For this reason, knowing the amount of direct and indirect water consumed throughout the entire production chain, and the impact generated on it by the use of fertilizers and phytosanitary products, has allowed us to be more consistent with the real impact that our activity generates on the water resource and take measures in this regard, in order to be able to reduce it in the coming years.”

What active member of the United Nations Global CompactThe Union manages with the evaluation of its water footprint, to approach directly in the achievement of the SDG 6: Ensure the availability of water and its sustainable management and sanitation for all. But it also indirectly promotes compliance with the SDG 9 (Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation), of the SDG 12 (Ensuring sustainable consumption and production patterns) and SDG 13 (Adopt urgent measures to combat climate change and its effects).

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