International brewer SABMiller has teamed up with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to produce a report comparing the water footprints of its production in South Africa and the Czech Republic for this year’s Stockholm Water Week.
The report includes the entire value chain from crop cultivation to beer distribution, detailing total direct and indirect water input.
The findings show that in South Africa the water footprint of 1 litre of beer is equivalent to 155 litres of water, compared to 45 litres of water for 1 litre of beer in the Czech Republic.
The main reasons for these differences in water volumes are:
• Differing country temperatures resulting in different evapo-transpiration rates
• Greater reliance on irrigated crops in South Africa
• Larger proportion of imported agricultural raw materials from countries where crop water consumption is higher flowing into the South African business
Although the volumes of water involved sound high, an independent researcher has estimated that coffee, wine and apple juice all have water footprints three times that of beer.
However, as the reports shows, the water footprint figure itself does not give the whole picture. The context of the footprint is all important: where the water is used, what proportion of the area's total water resource is used, and whether water scarcity creates risks to the environment, communities and businesses are all crucial factors which must be taken into account for an accurate reflection of the effects of a water footprint.
The report emphasises the growing importance of water monitoring for water management and the companies are using the insight provided by water footprinting to develop targeted programmes to improve efficiency throughout the supply chain.
WWF's Freshwater Footprint Manager, Stuart Orr said:
"The water footprints of SABMiller's beers in South Africa and the Czech Republic are the first detailed corporate water footprints to be published and are progressive in the way they examine the impact of water use within these countries. Most important is that this information is now used to ensure that their business partners - particularly farmers - are encouraged to use water more efficiently."
You can find the full report here.
Posted under Water Efficiency and Effluent Management and Food and Drink on 21 August 2009