You are here: Home Knowledge Base Environment Water Scarcity and Virtual Water Trade
Symposium 2011

Water Scarcity and Virtual Water Trade

The Challenge

Two fifths of the world’s population faces water shortages. During the coming decades, water scarcity is expected to rise as a result of a rapid increase in the demand for water due to population growth, urbanization and increasing consumption of water per capita. In addition, climate change is expected to influence the supply of water, modifying the regional distribution of freshwater resources.

Agriculture is the largest consumer of freshwater resources and consequently highly vulnerable to changes in water availability. International trade in food products is not only a key variable in global food security; it is also a key variable in agricultural water management. As water becomes scarcer, importing goods that require abundant water for their production may save water in water-scarce regions.

Is virtual water trade a realistic option for managing water scarcity beyond providing information on the water content of products? For which countries can virtual water trade be a meaningful option to cope with water scarcity and to what extent will water-short countries rely on domestic food production to ensure food security and avoid market volatilities? What kinds of incentives and administrative structures are needed to realize benefits from virtual water trade? Under what conditions will virtual water trade improve the global use of freshwater resources?

How will small-scale farmers in water-short regions be affected by and react to such a change in policy? What policy measures are needed to ensure that poor people benefit from virtual water imports? How can poor, water-short countries finance imports of water-intensive agricultural products? What are the limiting factors for a successful use of the concepts and how can they be overcome (for example, via international trade law, trade liberalization and agricultural subsidies)?

    Solutions

    Solution
    Symposium 2011

    Adopt multi-tier pricing to encourage the efficient use of water, while guaranteeing access to water for personal and environmental purposes.

    Adopt multi-tier pricing to encourage the efficient use of water, while guaranteeing access to water for personal and environmental purposes.

    Adopt multi-tier pricing to encourage the efficient use of water, while guaranteeing access to water for personal and environmental purposes.

    Polity, Business
    Solution
    Symposium 2011

    Modify accounting standards to reflect the role of water in the food supply chain.

    Modify accounting standards to reflect the role of water in the food supply chain.

    Modify accounting standards to reflect the role of water in the food supply chain.

    Polity, Business
    Solution
    Symposium 2011

    Promote awareness about wasted food and more healthy diets.

    Promote awareness about wasted food and more healthy diets.

    Promote awareness about wasted food and more healthy diets.

    Polity, Academia, Business, Civil Society
    Solution
    Symposium 2011

    Governments should foster water recycling, value-oriented water reuse and enforce quality standards.

    Governments should foster water recycling, value-oriented water reuse and enforce quality standards.

    Governments should foster water recycling, value-oriented water reuse and enforce quality standards.

    Polity, Business
    Solution
    Symposium 2011

    Strategically differentiate demand and supply management strategies.

    Strategically differentiate demand and supply management strategies.

    Strategically differentiate demand and supply management strategies.

    Polity, Business
    Solution
    Symposium 2011

    Intensify agricultural production sustainably with more efficient water use.

    Intensify agricultural production sustainably with more efficient water use.

    Intensify agricultural production sustainably with more efficient water use.

    Polity, Academia, Business, Civil Society
    Solution
    Symposium 2011

    An integrated water management policy should consider the human dimension of water scarcity.

    An integrated water management policy should consider the human dimension of water scarcity.

    An integrated water management policy should consider the human dimension of water scarcity.

    Polity

    Proposals

    Proposal
    Symposium 2011

    Water Scarcity and Virtual Water Trade

    1) Analyzing the source of the problem Compared to industry and residential water use the agricultural sector is the largest consumer of water. Today, many water-short regions and countries still use ...

    1) Analyzing the source of the problem Compared to industry and residential water use the agricultural sector is the largest consumer of water. Today, many water-short regions and countries still use the little water they have for growing crops. However, before water-scarce countries implement policy measures dealing with the problem, they should carefully analyze the causes of water scarcity. Measures will need to differ between countries characterized by absolute water scarcity and those where institutional inadequacies are the main causes. 2)   Institutional failures Water shortage is often caused by inadequate management of water resources. Production decisions in agriculture are so

    Polity, Business
    Proposal
    Symposium 2011

    by John W. McDonald

    I would like to propose the following two ideas to my panel on water issues: 1. To create an International Water Commission to develop and manage water usage agreements in order to prevent conflict wi ...

    I would like to propose the following two ideas to my panel on water issues: 1. To create an International Water Commission to develop and manage water usage agreements in order to prevent conflict with the waters of the Tigris, Euphrates, and Jordan rivers. This proposal has never been presented before, but once completed will be a major step forward in reducing conflict and building peace in the Middle East. I have been involved in drinking water and sanitation issues at the global and local levels since 1978, and have lived as a US diplomat in the region for

    Polity, Academia, Business, Civil Society
    Proposal
    Symposium 2011

    Four key messages

    Take away messages and solutions In conditions where 90% of the water in the economy is managed by farmers at the beginning of the food supply value chain. They manage all the green water used from th ...

    Take away messages and solutions In conditions where 90% of the water in the economy is managed by farmers at the beginning of the food supply value chain. They manage all the green water used from the root zone and 70% of all blue water. That is 90% of society’s total use. They have increased water productivity four times in the past half century. We need to help them further intensify BUT the intensification must be sustainable.   1. We must enable farmers to intensify their productivity sustainably Increased returns to water and water resource stewardship   2.

    Polity, Academia, Business, Civil Society
    Proposal
    Symposium 2011

    by Yacov Tsur

    Water reuse Rapid technological development has increased the efficiency and reduced the cost of recycled water. We now know that about 60 percent of residential water consumption can be treated (to s ...

    Water reuse Rapid technological development has increased the efficiency and reduced the cost of recycled water. We now know that about 60 percent of residential water consumption can be treated (to secondary or tertiary level) and reused in crop production and environmental (stream flows, ecosystems) restoration. Moreover, in more and more countries, environmental standards require treatment of sewage water. As a result, the residential sector, which has been competing fiercely with Agriculture for the limited amount of renewable fresh water, becomes an important source of irrigation water supply. And the potential of this source will continue to increase in the

    Polity, Business
    Proposal
    Symposium 2011

    by Richard Evans

    In many societies water is considered a right rather than a commodity with economic value. This is not surprising when water is abundant and demand is low relative to supply. That condition no longer ...

    In many societies water is considered a right rather than a commodity with economic value. This is not surprising when water is abundant and demand is low relative to supply. That condition no longer exists in many – and perhaps most – societies. In some cases water is being seen as either a commodity or a right depending upon its use – i.e. a commodity in industrial use but a right in personal use. The single largest use of water, however, is for agriculture which arguably encompasses both personal use (subsistence farming) and industrial use (large scale corporate farms) –

    Polity, Business

    Implemen- tations

    Implementation
    Symposium 2011

    Conserving Water in the Dead Sea

    Polity, Academia, Business, Civil Society
    Implementation
    Symposium 2011

    Measures by the Israeli Government to use recycled water for irrigation

    Polity, Academia, Business, Civil Society