Water Footprint in Textile and Fashion Industry

Water Footprint in Textile and Fashion Industry

Shubham Anil Jain
Aditya Birla Fashion and Retail Limited
Bangalore, India
Email: shubhamajain125@gmail.com


This is a relatively new expression that was used for the first time in 2002 by Arjen Hoekstra from the UNESCO-IHE (Institute for Water Education). It is an indicator that measures the volume of fresh water that a company uses in the production of goods or services. In the process the water could be consumed, evaporated or contaminated. In other words, the amount of water used in the production of yarns, membranes, laminates and the finished product. The total amount of water used for a product is called its water footprint. Now we know how the amount of water used in the production of goods that we consume is measured, let’s take a deeper look at the textile industry.

Water footprint in textile

Water Usage in Textile and Fashion Industry:
Globally, the textile and fashion business uses a lot of water. The fashion, fibre, and textile industries have a critical role to play in reducing water use in the production of their clothing in a world where four billion people already experience acute water scarcity for at least one month each year.  Currently, the fashion sector is thought to utilise 93 billion cubic metres of water annually, or 4% of total freshwater extraction worldwide. By 2030, this quantity is projected to double based on current trends. Water is essential to the fashion industry’s creation of textiles and clothing. Depending on where it is grown, just one kilogramme of raw cotton necessitates 10,000–20,000 litres of water.

Water usage in Textile and Fashion Industry

Traditional textile dyeing and finishing of the raw fibre is a water-intensive and environmentally destructive process. It is estimated that 100 to 150 litres of water are needed to process (spinning, dyeing, and finishing) one kilogramme of fibre, including cotton, polyester, and other materials. Not all cotton is grown in regions that are fed by rain. further irrigation is required for around half of the crop, which can put further strain on the local water resources. The amount of water used by the fashion business today would satisfy 110 million people’s hunger for a full year. About 2500 litres of water are required to create only one cotton shirt.

According to a 2014 lifecycle assessment of organic cotton fiber by Textile Exchange, organic cotton uses 91 percent less water than conventional cotton. Additionally, according to research by the Soil Association, switching all cotton growing to organic would result in a 98 percent reduction in pesticide use. The amount of harmful effluents, which become contaminants in nearby water systems, would be reduced or eliminated if water were added less or removed entirely from the dyeing process. Because of this, the textile industry is becoming increasingly interested in novel water-free dyeing and processing techniques for clothing and footwear.

How can Textile and Fashion Industry Reduce It’s Water Footprint?
The water impact of the fashion and textile business must be decreased. It has been divided into the three areas where the water footprint of the textile and fashion industry needs to be reduced to demonstrate how this is possible.

1. Water Footprints: Materials:
The issue arises in the phase of fashion’s raw materials. Two of the most popular fashion fibres, cotton and polyester, both have issues with water use and contamination. Cotton’s water footprint may be disputed, but cotton is unquestionably not the most water-conscious product available. We prefer to use organic cotton or recycled cotton in our RecoverTM lines rather than conventional cotton. Utilising worn garments and cotton textile waste scraps from the textile industry, RecoverTM creates a brand-new recycled fibre.

In other places, fibres produced in a way that is environmentally friendly exhibit sustainable water use. All of the water needed for the chemical process is recycled numerous times before being cleansed and released back into the environment in the case of some botanical fibres made by Lenzing AG. The garment industry needs to choose materials that use less water (like RecoverTM) or utilise it more wisely in order to lower its water footprint.

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2. Reducing Water Footprints: Manufacturing:
What occurs during the production process is just as crucial to lowering the water footprint of the fashion industry. Common objective estimates that the dyeing, spinning, and finishing of the basic materials used in fashion, such as cotton and polyester, uses between 100 and 150 litres of water every kg of fibre produced. We use that statistic with some caution because it’s possible that the actual amount may vary significantly from factory to factory and fibre to fibre.

Denim is one of the least effective materials since it can produce a lot of water waste and dye pollution. For denim jeans to acquire their traditional washed indigo hue, up to 15 washings are required. However, there are currently technologies available that can aid in reducing both the high water use and any detrimental effects on water systems. Consider the finishing technique called e-flow, which is used on certain of our jeans to decolorize the fabric without generating any wastewater. It can cut the water footprint of denim by 70–80%, which is a significant achievement.

3. Reducing Water Footprints: Use
According to Fashion Revolution, laundry actually accounts for 25% of a garment’s carbon impact. Similar to this, the water footprint of the fashion industry has increased by 21% thanks to the water consumed to wash clothes. We need to reevaluate our connection with water as fashion customers. According to one insightful piece, “we think of (water) simply as being owned and used. The global north, in particular, takes water for granted to the point where we have forgotten any meaningful connection to our water sources, cycles, and systems.

Practically, we need to start paying attention to the contamination of the water we use. This entails decreasing the number of times we wash our clothes, selecting the quick cycle on the washing machine, and according to care labels. You can save 10 litres of water per wash by just washing your clothes in a full load. There are a lot more ways for the garment business to conserve water. In order to monitor and raise water quality across the sector, this includes a move away from synthetic fibers, which release plastics into aquatic environments. It also includes better supply chain transparency.


  1. https://www.commonobjective.co/article/the-issues-water
  2. https://twothirds.com/en-ch/blogs/journal/how-can-the-fashion-industry-reduce-its-water-footprint
  3. https://d13cstudio.com/how-much-water-does-the-fashion-industry-use-the-water-footprint-of-our-clothes%EF%BF%BC/
  4. https://www.vogue.in/fashion/content/the-fashion-industry-is-using-up-too-much-water-heres-how-you-can-reduce-your-h2o-footprint
  5. https://www.sympatex.com/en/the-water-footprint-of-the-textile-industry/

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