Water Footprint Calculator Methodology

Water Footprint Calculator Methodology

A water consumption calculator – our Water Footprint Calculator – provides a snapshot of how a person’s daily activities and routines impact their water consumption. This methodology provides all of the data, calculations and sources for all of the questions and average values used in the calculator.

How the Water Footprint Calculator Works

Through a series of simple questions about daily routines, this innovative and engaging calculator accounts for the water we use from the tap and the water it takes to produce the food we eat, the energy we use and the products we buy. Created with a dynamic and adaptive interface, the calculator functions seamlessly on mobile, tablets and desktop computers. Other features include customized results, interactive graphics and the ability for users to change their answers and “play” with their results. As part of the package, links to over 100 water-saving tips are offered to help users lower their water footprint.

methodology reports icon; water footprint calculator methodology

How the Water Footprint Calculator Was Created

The Water Footprint Calculator Methodology provides all the calculations, data and sources used in the Water Footprint Calculator. The calculations used in the calculator methodology provide an estimate and should be considered as such. The value of the Water Footprint Calculator lies in its ability to help users understand how they use water and how they can use less. The research behind it points to a lack of consistent, high-quality water use data collected in the United States. All results should be viewed in this context.

The calculations were based on 2016 studies and data sets where possible, to maintain consistency within the data. In some cases, data used in the calculator methodology came from studies that evaluated personal water use based on individual behaviors. In other cases, national data were used to create statistical averages that allowed for calculation of individual water use.

Some of the questions in the calculator do not technically fall within the guidelines for conducting a proper Water Footprint Assessment as formally developed by the Water Footprint Network. Although we try to focus the questions on water consumption, the line between withdrawal and consumption is not always clear for direct use. In addition, the pet food question was based solely on withdrawals because no consumption data is available at this time.

This post that describes the differences between withdrawals and consumption.
Water Use, Withdrawal and Consumption

Although the focus area of the Water Footprint Calculator is the United States, it uses international and United States data. All data have been converted to US-standard units (gallons, pounds and feet). 

This post helps you adapt and use the Water Footprint Calculator if you are from outside of the United States.
Using the Calculator When You’re Outside the US

Alternately, you can use the Water Footprint Network’s calculator, which is presented in multiple languages with metric units and uses international data.
Water Footprint Network: Personal calculator – extended