Assessing the water footprint of cotton production in South Africa
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Water remains an essential natural resource for life, and it is a vital component for economic activities in South Africa. The main objective of this study was to assess the water footprint of cotton in South Africa. The water footprint of cotton on farm level was calculated; both green and blue water footprints were considered. However, due to a lack of data, the grey water footprint was not considered. Water productivity on farm level was also determined. The study was conducted as a case study in Marble hall, under the Loskop irrigation scheme. This study employed the Global Water Footprint Standard (GWFS) approach in order to calculate the volumetric blue and green water footprint of cotton. The approach was employed in two different planting times/seasons, namely September and October. The results indicate that cotton planted in September under irrigation accounts to 1172.92m/ton with a yield level of 4.8/ha. A total of 58% of the 1172.92m/ton of water was the green water footprint and 42% was the blue water footprint. Cotton in the Loskop irrigation scheme is less dependent on irrigation water since the rainfall water contributes more compared to irrigation water. The results concluded that cotton planted in October under irrigation accounts for 1054m/ton of blue and green water footprint. Of the 1054m/ton of blue plus green water footprint, rainfall contributed 63% of the water required, which indicates that even in late planting time, the water that cotton require is mostly met by rainfall. The results further indicated improved water usage in both different planting seasons / time. The study also assessed the water productivity of cotton, where the value added to water was quantified on farm production. The economic water productivity (EWP) of the September planting season was R7.23 and obtained per cubic metre of the water used for cotton production. The EWP of the October planting season was R8.69 as obtained per cubic metre of the water used for cotton production. The EWP of cotton planted in October was found to be higher than the cotton planted in September. October proved to be the most sustainable month for cotton production. Hence, it is recommended that cotton production in the Loskop irrigation scheme should take place in October rather than September.