InoCottonGrow – Innovation to Reduce the Water Footprint of the Global Cotton Textile Industry

Project member: Christopher Conrad Muhammad Usman Project duration: 2017-2020

The global water resources are regionally endangered through the highly water consuming production of cotton textiles in arid and semi-arid cropping areas. The aim of the joint research project is to contribute to sustainable water usage in the cotton-textile supply chain with innovative impulses and to therefore develop a concept of water footprint towards a region-specific planning instrument for national decision makers, the textile retailers, and consumers. The newly developed methods will be tested in case studies in Pakistan where production demand from Germany is responsible for a large portion of export of virtual water. An analysis of the current state of actual water consumption and water pollution in cotton production and an estimation of their effects on human health and the ecosystems will be performed by means of Remote Sensing (RS), field studies, modelling approaches, company audits, and water monitoring. Demonstrations of effective irrigation strategies in the cotton production, of water saving textile machinery, of eco-friendly colourings, of waste water technology, and pollutant analysis – amongst others – will be used to estimate the technically and institutionally ascertainable potential for reducing the water footprint in Pakistan, to assess their contribution to achieving the SDGs of the UN, and to develop alternative development scenarios. The transfer of the developed methods onto other producing countries of the globally operating cotton textile industry will be tested in a pilot study in Turkey. Decision makers will be given instruments for the sustainable management of scarce water resources. Consumers will be strengthened in conscious purchase decisions.


The University of Würzburg will contribute substantially to achieving the following goals within the framework of the joint research project InoCottonGROW:

  • To support an analysis of the current state of cotton irrigation and competitive usages in Pakistan and Turkey by means of RS, which is required for the water footprint,

  • To demonstrate the potential of reducing the water footprint of cotton irrigation in Pakistan, and

  • To evaluate the achievements of above potentials in direction of the SDGs and to develop and to show alternative development scenarios such as diversification of cotton production with other cash crops.


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