Global footprint

Our development takes responsibility for the present as well as coming generations.

Our global footprint now exceeds the world’s capacity to regenerate by about 30 per cent.


If our demands on the planet continue at the same rate, by the mid-2030s we will need the equivalent of two planets to maintain our lifestyle.

The new water footprint measures show up the significance of water traded in the form of commodities with, for example, a cotton T-shirt requiring 2,900 litres of water in its production, a kilogram of cane sugar about 1500 litres and a kilogram of beef some 15,500 litres. These water footprint measures are a considerable advance over previous figures of direct water consumption only. On average, each person consumes 1.24 million litres (about half an Olympic swimming pool) of water a year, but this varies from 2.48 million litres per person a year (USA) to 619,000 litres per capita annually (Yemen). On the measure of water footprint per person, five of the top ten nations are the Mediterranean countries of Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal and Cyprus — an area facing greater and greater water stress. The impact of a water footprint depends entirely on where and when water is extracted. Water use in an area where it is plentiful is unlikely to have an adverse effect on society of the environment, whereas in an areas already experiencing water shortages the same level of water use could result in the drying up of rivers and the destruction of ecosystems, with associated loss of biodiversity and livelihoods. Around 50 countries are currently facing moderate or severe water stress and the number of people suffering from year-round or seasonal water shortages is expected to increase as a result of climate change.

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