Water is an essential natural resource. Driven by growing water demand, increasing water scarcity in many areas and/or degradation of water quality , the issue of water use and management has become increasingly important to the global debate on sustainability. Increased global competition for water represents both risks and opportunities for businesses. For many businesses, water stewardship may be necessary to obtain a license to operate. It can also be leveraged to effectively manage brand and reputation, business continuity, or as a driver for innovation.

A water footprint inventory is a solution to better understand water related impacts. It addresses the potential environmental impact(s) related to water and associated with a product, process or organization. It must include water footprint impact assessment phase that follows the water footprint inventory. A water footprint study is aimed at understanding and evaluating the magnitude and significance of the potential environmental impact(s) related to water used by or within a product, process or organization. A water footprint inventory study is not a water footprint. Rather a water footprint inventory is the compilation and quantification of inputs and outputs related to water for products, processes or organizations as defined in the goal and scope of the study.