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September 15, 2011 Virtual Water Trade Can Help to Alleviate Global Water Scarcity

Where there is a shortage of water, there is also a shortage of everything else, as is evidenced by the current extreme drought in East Africa. Thousands of people there have already died of hunger or thirst, and millions have been affected otherwise. This situation demonstrates that resolving the problem of water scarcity is more urgent than ever. “One way on dealing with this problem would be to establish a so-called virtual water trade system,” says Professor Katrin Rehdanz, a researcher at the Kiel Institute and one of the organizers of the Global Economic Symposium (GES) 2011 panel session entitled Water Scarcity and Virtual Water Trade. Further, according to Professor Rehdanz, because agriculture is the largest user of water, “agricultural products containing large amounts of virtual water are imported by countries with few water resources from countries endowed with more abundant water resources.”

Forty percent of the world’s population is affected by water scarcity, and the situation is expected to get worse in the coming years as the result of strong population growth and increasing industrialization and urbanization. Climate change also has a large impact on water resources because it changes precipitation patterns. To prevent the “water wars” that are so often predicted, the problem of water scarcity has to be dealt with quickly. Virtual water trade could help to alleviate this problem.

How does virtual water trade work? Is it a realistic option to alleviate water scarcity? What countries could implement a virtual water trade system? What incentives and administrative structures would be needed for such a system? And how would small farmers in affected areas react to such a system? These and other questions will be discussed at the Global Economic Symposium in Kiel.

Kiel will turn into a think tank on 4–6 October, when more than 400 high-ranking ex¬perts from business, government, academia, and civil societies will meet for the fourth Global Economic Symposium (GES), which is being jointly hosted by the Kiel institute for the World Economy and the Bertelsmann Stiftung, in cooperation with the German National Library of Economics (ZBW) – Leibniz Information Centre for Economics. Among those expected to participate are Hans-Paul Bürkner, President and CEO of the Boston Consulting Group, René Obermann, CEO of Deutsche Telekom, Joaquín Almunia, Commissioner for Competition, European Commission, Yves Leterme, Prime Minister of Belgium, Anders Borg, Finance Minister, Sweden, Mehmet Şimşek, Minister of Finance, Turkey, and Erik Stark Maskin and Oliver E. Williamson, both Nobel laureates in economics.

To register to attend, please submit the accreditation application form by September 19. It may not be possible to accept late registrations for security reasons. Applications made on the days of the event will not be accepted. Our media agency will gladly help you arrange interviews. Please mention on your accreditation application form whom you would like to interview.

Please note that the conference will be held in English.

In case of questions regarding the accreditation, please contact the Kiel Institute’s media agency:

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