Water footprint: successful Swiss commitment to the new ISO standard on water usage

For five years, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, the Federal Office for the Environment and the Federal Office for Agriculture actively supported work on a new standard to ensure that water usage worldwide can be assessed according to uniform criteria.


The new norm 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 today at World Water Week in Stockholm.

Around 140 litres of water go into the pleasure of one cup of coffee. That is the volume of water consumed to produce the cup and the coffee. The figure may vary according to region and method of production. For the first time, a new norm sheds light on the interdependencies involved in water usage. Presented today at World Water Week in the Swedish capital Stockholm, the new standard from the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) – ISO 14046 – specifies the principles and parameters for water footprint assessments. The transparency that it creates about the impact of water usage will enable companies and institutions to calculate their consumption in a more standard way, and to take the appropriate action to use water more efficiently.

The process of drafting the new standard has taken around five years. 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 10 institutions. The five-year process was supported by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), the Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN) and the Federal Office for Agriculture (FOAG), and led by the Swiss Association for Standardization (SNV), which coordinated 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.


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, 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-specific action in the districts close to their individual production plants. Seven Colombian firms have since joined the initiative.


Web News Portal of the Federal Administration
Additional Information and Documents:
Web Project SuizAgua Andina
Project SuizAgua Andina, fact sheet, Embassy of Switzerland / Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation SDC
Video Water footprint
Web SuizAgua Andina Colombia
Ejecutor en Perú: Web Agualimpia
Ejecutor en Chile: Web Fundación Chile

Web Global Programme Water Initiatives
Web Swiss Association for Standardization (SNV)
Web World Water Week 2014



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