We have investigated how different approaches for water footprint (WF) calculations lead to different results, taking sugar beet production and sugar refining as examples. To a large extent, results obtained from any WF calculation are reflective of the method used and the assumptions made. Real irrigation data for 59 European sugar beet growing areas showed inadequate estimation of irrigation water when a widely used simple approach was used. The method resulted in an overestimation of blue water and an underestimation of green water usage. Dependent on the chosen (available) water quality standard, the final grey WF can differ up to a factor of 10 and more. We conclude that further development and standardisation of the WF is needed to reach comparable and reliable results. A special focus should be on standardisation of the grey WF methodology based on receiving water quality standards.

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