Water for production

Water is a prerequisite for economic development. Water as a resource for production focuses on the economic value of the natural resource water.

Different types of industries demand different quantities of water resources, and produce and dispose of different kinds of wastewater.

Agriculture uses almost 70% of the world's water withdrawal —including irrigation, livestock watering and cleaning, and aquaculture. Industrial water withdrawal accounts for around 20% of total global withdrawal according the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). In Europe, industry is a major water user, accounting for about 40% of total water abstraction. Furthermore the industrial sector is a major water polluter, as only up to 60% of industrial wastewater receives treatment before being disposed of into the environment (value based on data from eight countries - see Statistics explained on water use in industry).

The production of energy also requires water in processes such as thermal power plant cooling systems or lowering the water table for raw materials extraction.

FAO reports that global water withdrawal increased from less than 600 km3/year in 1900 to almost 4,000 km3/year in 2010. According to the OECD "Environmental Outlook to 2050", global demand for water is projected to increase by 55% between 2000 and 2050, mainly driven by a 400% increase in demand from the manufacturing sector. Proper water management for production purposes is getting more and more important as the manufacturing sector is just one of many stakeholders dependent on this natural resource. The report explores the main policy responses governments should consider to address the challenges of increased water demand.

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Data sources

Eurostat’s water database provides information on topics such as water use in the manufacturing industry by activity and supply category, and sewage sludge production and disposal.

The European Environment Agency (EEA) manages the Data Centre on Water, where data on e.g. changes in the use of freshwater for irrigation, industry, energy cooling and public water supply is available.

Information on water use and future demand in the agricultural sector can be found in a report on agricultural ecosystems published by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD).

Water demand forecasts are also published in the "Water Chapter of the Environmental Outlook to 2050" by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).