Publications — Water Footprint Assessment

A Fast Track Approach to Deal with the Temporal Dimension of Crop Water Footprint

by Water To Food Team

Population growth, socio-economic development and climate changes are placing increasing pressure on water resources. Crop water footprint is a key indicator in the quantification of such pressure. It is determined by crop evapotranspiration and crop yield, which can be highly variable in space and time.

While the spatial variability of crop water footprint has been the objective of several investigations, the temporal variability remains poorly studied. In particular, some studies approached this issue by associating the time variability of crop water footprint only to yield changes, while considering evapotranspiration patterns as marginal.

Validation of this Fast Track approach has yet to be provided. In this Letter we demonstrate its feasibility through a comprehensive validation, an assessment of its uncertainty, and an example of application.

Our results show that the water footprint changes are mainly driven by yield trends, while evapotranspiration plays a minor role. The error due to considering constant evapotranspiration is three times smaller than the uncertainty of the model used to compute the crop water footprint.

These results confirm the suitability of the Fast Track approach and enable a simple, yet appropriate, evaluation of time-varying crop water footprint.