Chilean officials are launching an initiative that will require companies to measure the effects of water consumption on local watersheds and their own business sustainability. A coalition of partners, including the government-created Chile Foundation, is advocating the use of the “water footprint,” which will measure the total volume of freshwater required to produce goods and services. As part of a pilot project, the foundation will measure the water footprint of products and companies in Atacama, a semi-desert region of northern Chile where several major mining projects are in operation.
By December, organizers says they will have more information on the effects of mining activities and agriculture on the region’s Copiapo and Huasco watersheds. “Perhaps the water footprint will not follow the same critical path as the carbon footprint,” said the Chile Foundation’s Rodrigo Acevedo, “but it does call companies’ attention to rethinking their water resource management.” The leading entity for defining such standards worldwide is the Water Footprint Network, a nonprofit coalition that has calculated the water footprint for products such as a cup of coffee (140 liters).