Generalizing ecological, water and carbon footprint methods and their worldview assumptions using Embedded Resource Accounting

Richard R. Rushforth, Elizabeth A. Adams, Benjamin L. Ruddell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Embedded Resource Accounting (ERA) generalizes footprint methods by accounting for the net direct and indirect impacts of processes on arbitrarily defined resource stocks. Equivalency may or may not exist between these stocks from the perspective of a specific observer and depending on the system boundaries. The assumptions made in the derivation of ecological, water, and carbon footprint methodologies from the ERA framework are explained, and the implications of variations on these assumptions discussed. The paper then discusses how the role and worldview of a resource manager determines the appropriate assumptions that should be made in the calculation of resource footprints. When its foundational assumptions are made explicit, ERA and related footprint methods can help explicate the impact of roles and worldviews in resource management in a complex systems context. This discussion directly informs the creation of appropriate footprint standards that function as sustainability metrics and provide the information needed for specific resource management applications. We conclude that different types of policymakers and resource managers need to make different assumptions to obtain the information necessary for their unique decision-making perspectives and roles.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)77-90
Number of pages14
JournalWater Resources and Industry
StatePublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Carbon
  • Ecological
  • Embedded Resource Accounting
  • Footprint
  • Virtual water
  • Water

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Water Science and Technology


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