Virtual Water

Virtual water... seems science fiction. However, it is a very important concept that must be considered carefully.
Usually when we use something or eat something we don't realize that we are consuming water, since water is used in the production process to build something or to grow food. Virtual Water refers to the hidden flow of water if food or other commodities are traded from one place to another. For instance, it takes 1,600 cubic meters of water on average to produce one metric tonne of wheat.
This virtual water term led to the idea of virtual water trade, refers to the idea that when goods and services are exchanged, so is virtual water. When a country imports one tonne of wheat instead of producing it domestically, it is saving about 1,300 cubic meters of real indigenous water. If this country is water-scarce, the water that is 'saved' can be used towards other ends. If the exporting country is water-scarce, however, it has exported 1,300 cubic meters of virtual water since the real water used to grow the wheat will no longer be available for other purposes. This has obvious strategic implications for countries that are water-constrained. For instance, Israel discourage the export of oranges (relatively heavy water guzzlers) precisely to prevent large quantities of water being exported to different parts of the world.
Other new concept related to the use of water is the water footprint. Water footprint shows the link between consumer goods or a consumption pattern and water use and pollution. Virtual water trade and water footprint can be seen as part of a bigger story: the globalization of water.

Additional links:
How much virtual water we use every day?
What is your water footprint?

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