The new ISO (International Organization for Standardization) standard norm on water usage is intended to help both identify the impacts of water usage and implement measures to use water more efficiently. The ISO standard for conducting a water footprint assessment was adopted by the organisation's member states in July, and presented to a broad audience at World Water Week in Stockholm, in September this year.
The process of drafting the new standard has taken around five years, notes the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) in a press release. Committed to its development, Switzerland has played a key role in a process which involved experts from more than 50 states and representatives of over ten institutions. The process was supported, beside SDC, by the Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN) and the Federal Office for Agriculture (FOAG), and led by the Swiss Association for Standardization (SNV), which co-ordinated meetings and the technical steps involved in developing the standard. Furthermore, the working group in charge was chaired by a representative of Quantis, a spin-off from the Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne which specialises in sustainability.
Around 140 litres of water go into the pleasure of one cup of coffee, notes SDC. That is the volume of water consumed to produce the cup and the coffee. With the new ISO norm, light is shed on the interdependencies involved in water usage for the first time. ISO 14046 specifies the principles and parameters for water footprint assessments. According to SDC, the transparency that it creates regarding the impact of water usage will enable companies and institutions to calculate their consumption in a more standardised manner, and to take appropriate action to use water more efficiently.
In addition, as of 2009, the SDC began testing the practical application of the new standard in several of the projects it supports in Vietnam and Colombia, and later also in Chile and Peru. This work involved public-private partnerships with major corporations, research centres and environmental authorities. For example, as part of the project in Colombia, four Swiss companies developed measures to reduce the water footprint, and used the specialist knowledge that they gained to support water-related activities in the districts close to their individual production plants. Seven Colombian enterprises have since joined the initiative.