Now carbon footprints are firmly established as policy-drivers, how about other imaginary footprints we may have to endure? Your water footprint is one the EU seems keen to make more of.
Our individual water footprint is the sum of the water footprints of all the goods and services we consume. According to scientists from the University of Twente in the Netherlands, the global average water footprint per consumer between 1996 and 2005 was 3800 l/day (1385 m³/year). The average figure for a German consumer was 3900 l/day (1426 m³/year) and for a Spanish consumer was 6700 l/day (2461 m³/year). An average Danish consumer had a footprint of 4500 l/day (1635 m³/year) while the figure in Poland was 3800 l/day (1405 m³/year).
What the study also revealed was that our pattern and volume of consumption has a direct impact on our water footprint. Someone who drinks a lot of coffee and regularly eats meat, for example, is likely to have a much higher water footprint than a vegetarian who drinks tap water.
So now we know – a water-drinking vegetarian is the ideal EU citizen. Or more likely the ideal child or grandchild if generationawake is anything to go by. Generation AWAKE seems to be one of those EU educational initiatives aimed at every aspect of daily domestic life, including water usage. For example:
Do you have to eat meat with every meal?
It is a fact that eating less meat will reduce the environmental impact of your diet. But do you know the reasons why? Livestock rearing has an impact on valuable natural habitats and puts biodiversity and sustainable land use under pressure.
How clean is your towel?
A towel is for drying you once you are clean, so it gets wet, not dirty. That means you can use towels several times before they go in the laundry basket.
Why not have a shower instead of a bath?
We need to get used to the fact that water is a limited resource.
Water probably is wasted in the UK, but only because many properties are still unmetered and the underground pipes are leaky. Water meters won’t sort out the leaky pipes, but for water policy, wasn’t there such as thing as subsidiarity – that almost forgotten EU lie?
The principle of subsidiarity is defined in Article 5 of the Treaty on European Union. It ensures that decisions are taken as closely as possible to the citizen and that constant checks are made to verify that action at Union level is justified in light of the possibilities available at national, regional or local level. Specifically, it is the principle whereby the Union does not take action (except in the areas that fall within its exclusive competence), unless it is more effective than action taken at national, regional or local level.
As the UK is an island state, water policy is a glaringly obviously candidate for purely national policy-making, yet as well as our water footprint, we also have the EU Water Framework Directive.
The supply of water is a practical matter based on well-established technology, but the notion of a water footprint is of course political. However it sits on a more practical base than carbon footprints because less dodgy science is involved and there is less necessity for outright fraud to sustain the argument.
It just needs a touch of exaggeration and some slippery assumptions. I think we'll get plenty of those.