ISO 14046:2014

Environmental management — Water footprint — Principles, requirements and guidelines

ISO 14046:2014 specifies principles, requirements and guidelines related to water footprint assessment of products, processes and organizations based on life cycle assessment (LCA).

ISO 14046:2014 provides principles, requirements and guidelines for conducting and reporting a water footprint assessment as a stand-alone assessment, or as part of a more comprehensive environmental assessment.

Only air and soil emissions that impact water quality are included in the assessment, and not all air and soil emissions are included.

The result of a water footprint assessment is a single value or a profile of impact indicator results.

Whereas reporting is within the scope of ISO 14046:2014, communication of water footprint results, for example in the form of labels or declarations, is outside the scope of ISO 14046:2014.

Water footprint assessments

ISO 14046:2014 Environmental Management. Water Footprint. Principles, Requirements and Guidelines is an international water footprinting guidance standard and forms part of the ISO 14000 series of environmental management standards.
ISO 14046 is designed to help organisations assess and report the potential impacts of water use and pollution of products and processes, based on a lifecycle assessment.

According to ISO 14046, a water footprint assessment can help in:
assessing the magnitude of potential environmental impacts related to water
identifying ways to reduce potential water-related impacts of products at various lifecycle stages, and of processes and organisationsfacilitating water efficiency and optimisation of water management at product, process and organisational levels
providing scientifically consistent and reliable information for reporting water footprint results.

ISO 14046 is based on a lifecycle assessment as prescribed in ISO 14044 which incorporates an inventory of input/output data (LCI), an assessment of the data to understand the environmental significance of the results (LCA) and a final interpretation phase as a way of recommending or deciding courses of action to improve environmental performance.

The standard provides terms and definitions relating to different aspects of water as follows:
Types and classifications of water defines fresh, brackish and surface water, fossil water groundwater and sea water, etc.
Terms relating to general water use include water use, water withdrawal, quality and degradation, etc.
Terms relating to water footprinting and lifecycle are also defined, including environmental mechanisms, water availability, footprint profiles, inventory analysis and system boundaries, etc.

Requirements for assessments

Basic ISO 14046 requirements for water footprinting assessments should include:
potential environmental impacts related to water
relevant geographical and temporal dimensions
quantity of water use and changes to water quality
information about local hydrology.

However, users of ISO 14046 can define their own scope of water footprint assessment — providing this is in accordance with the standard’s requirements.
The system boundaries should be consistent with the goal of the study and the boundaries should indicate whether the water footprint is for a specific product, process or organisation. The process can be modular, where the water footprint of different lifecycle stages can be summed to represent the water footprint, providing these are clearly defined and explained.

The requirements and recommendations given in ISO 14046 provide elements for understanding how water use can be improved by accounting for the volumes used and quantifying scarcity and pollution, as well as other related impacts.

The environmental focus of water footprinting is defined as “the potential environmental impact(s) related to water associated with a product, process or organisation”. A water impact category is defined as a class representing environmental issues of concern to which the lifecycle inventory analysis results may be assigned.

In terms of the wider scope of the standard, economic and social impacts are not included. However, societal, environmental, legal, cultural, political and organisational diversity should be considered when applying ISO 14046, as well as differences in economic conditions. Data collection is prescribed in detail in the standard and should include information about:

quantities of water used (section 5.3.2)
types of water resources used (section 5.3.2)
data describing water quality (section 5.3.2)
forms of water use (section 5.3.2)
changes in drainage, stream flow, groundwater flow or water evaporation, where relevant to the scope and boundary of the study being undertaken
locations of water use that are required to determine any related environmental condition indicator of the area where the water use takes place (section 5.3.2)
seasonal changes in water flows, water withdrawal or changes in water quality
temporal aspects of water use.

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ISO 14046:2014

Data requirements

A full description of data collection, quality and analysis is presented in the standard. The section 5.3.2 referenced in the data collection section refers to the Elementary flows which should include:
quantities of water used
resource types of water used, such as precipitation, surface water, groundwater, etc
water quality parameters and/or characteristics such as physical, chemical, and biological characteristics
forms of water use, such as evaporation, transpiration, product integration, release into different drainage basins, in-stream use, etc
geographical location of water withdrawal including information on the physical location of water withdrawal
temporal aspects of water use, such as time of use and release
emissions to air, water and soil with impact on water quality.

The data categories can be extended depending on the scope of the study.

The requirements for water footprint impact assessments is discussed in some detail in the standard, including how to determine water footprint indicator results and the wider water footprint profile which may comprise several indicator results. The selection of impact categories, category indicators and characterisation models, is also discussed, given that water-related impacts affect numerous environmental mechanisms and media.

The ISO 14046 guidance standard includes prescriptive requirements for water footprinting as these relate to products, process and organisations, with additional information about how to define the scope and elementary flows that must be considered. It also sets out basic requirements to take account of water availability.
Section 5.4.6 addresses water degradation to give an assessment of the impacts that products, processes or organisations can have on water quality, leading to water degradation.