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A water footprint is the amount of freshwater used by individuals, groups or companies in order to make goods or provide services used by the community. These goods and services may be needed around the entire world. A water footprint can be determined by math for any well-established group of users, or producers. It is measured by dividing the total amount of water used, by the water that became polluted, in the same area during the same amount of time. While the water footprint of an organization is a good indicator for its water consumption and pollution, it does not show how other water sources are affected. More studies will need to be done in order to determine the effect of the water footprint on water sources.
The water footprint concept was introduced in 2002 by A.Y. Hoekstra from UNESCO-IHE as an alternative indicator of water use.. The concept was refined and accounting methods were established with a series of publications from two lead authors A.K. Chapagain and A.Y. Hoekstra from the UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education, now at WWF-UK and University of Twente respectively. The most elaborate publications on how to estimate water footprints are a 2004-report on the 'Water footprint of nations' from UNESCO-IHE  and the 2008-book Globalization of Water by A.Y. Hoekstra and A.K. Chapagain, published by Blackwell, 2008. Cooperation between global leading institutions in the field has led to the establishment of the Water Footprint Network in 2008 that aims to coordinate efforts to further develop and disseminate knowledge on water footprint concepts, methods and tools.