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Virtual water: concepts and implications

Author(s): Gabriela Parada - Puig

Journal: Orinoquia
ISSN 0121-3709

Volume: 16;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 69;
Date: 2012;
Original page

Keywords: virtual water | globalisation | water footprint | water footprint | water resources | agricultural sector

AbstractWater is one of the most precious resources available to life on our planet. It is an essential, limited resource which is currently endangered and whose availability is becoming ever more critical, leading to geopolitical conflicts or changes in internal policy regarding its production and trading in many countries. An important aspect regarding the attention which should be paid to this resource is represented by quantifying its reserves and their use, abuse and contamination directly resulting from human activity. The concept of “virtual water” was thus introduced during the 1990s to account for water being consumed, for example, throughout the whole process of agricultural production and added it to the final product as virtual water contained in it compared to traditional indicators, as water use is not reflected in a final product. This indicator then allowed agricultural items to be compared regarding a crop’s geographical location, water use efficiency, etc, and allowed more relevant decisions to be taken about allocating water resources for efficient or priority uses. The idea of “water footprint” arose from this concept; it is an indicator accounting for all virtual water contained in the products being consumed by an individual or group of consumers, a geographically bounded area or a business/company, as well as accounting for the water necessary for diluting contamination associated with a particular production process.The present article’s main objective is to present a review of the concepts concerning virtual water and water footprint as these are innovative indicators for quantifying human appropriation of water resources. They broaden the panorama of worldwide water consumption, leading to discussion at more interdisciplinary levels, highlighting and somewhat clarifying the effect of market economics and globalisation on natural resources, emphasising water resources’ availability and use.
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