Considering the Fate of Evaporated Water across Basin Boundaries - Implications for Water Footprinting

Andreas Link*, Markus Berger, Ruud Van Der Ent, Stephanie Eisner, Matthias Finkbeiner

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
4 Downloads (Pure)


Water consumption along value chains of goods and services has increased globally and led to increased attention on water footprinting. Most global water consumption is accounted for by evaporation (E), which is connected via bridges of atmospheric moisture transport to other regions on Earth. However, the resultant source-receptor relationships between different drainage basins have not yet been considered in water footprinting. Based on a previously developed data set on the fate of land evaporation, we aim to close this gap by using comprehensive information on evaporation recycling in water footprinting for the first time. By considering both basin internal evaporation recycling (BIER; >5% in 2% of the world's basins) and basin external evaporation recycling (BEER; >50% in 37% of the world's basins), we were able to use three types of water inventories (basin internal, basin external, and transboundary inventories), which imply different evaluation perspectives in water footprinting. Drawing on recently developed impact assessment methods, we produced characterization models for assessing the impacts of blue and green water evaporation on blue water availability for all evaluation perspectives. The results show that the negative effects of evaporation in the originating basins are counteracted (and partly overcompensated) by the positive effects of reprecipitation in receiving basins. By aggregating them, combined net impacts can be determined. While we argue that these offset results should not be used as a standalone evaluation, the water footprint community should consider atmospheric moisture recycling in future standards and guidelines.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)10231-10242
Number of pages12
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number15
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

Green Open Access added to TU Delft Institutional Repository ‘You share, we take care!’ – Taverne project Otherwise as indicated in the copyright section: the publisher is the copyright holder of this work and the author uses the Dutch legislation to make this work public.


  • atmospheric moisture
  • evaporation recycling
  • life cycle assessment
  • life cycle impact assessment
  • water consumption
  • water footprint
  • WAVE


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