Water Footprint and Life Cycle Assessment as approaches to assess potential impacts of products on water consumption. Key learning points from pilot studies on tea and margarine

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Water accounting and environmental impact assessment across the product’s life cycle is gaining prominence. This paper presents two case studies of applying the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) and Water Footprint (WF) approaches to tea and margarine. The WF, excluding grey water, of a carton of 50 g tea is 294 L green water and 10 L blue water, and that of a 500 g tub of margarine is 553 L green water, 109 L blue water. The inventory results in the LCA studies (blue water) are 13 L for tea and 114 L for margarine. In the impact assessment phase of WF, Coonoor in Southern India appears as a potential hotspot for tea production, although the water consumed in energy to boil the kettle and by the consumer are also significant. For margarine the main potential hotspot is irrigated sunflower around Zaporizhia in Ukraine. The impact assessment results of LCA for tea causes the water in the consumer use phase to be downweighted and stresses the contribution from Coonoor due to the higher water scarcity of this region. Similarly the LCA impact assessment of margarine causes the palm oil contribution to be down-weighted due to the low water scarcity of Medan in Indonesia. From these case studies we identify  similarities, differences and synergies at both the water accounting and impact assessment levels for both approaches with the purpose of improving and advancing the water resource assessment process.

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