Savings and losses of global water resources in food-related virtual water trade

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleScientificpeer-review

Researchers

  • Wenfeng Liu
  • Marta Antonelli
  • Matti Kummu

  • Xu Zhao
  • Pute Wu
  • Junguo Liu
  • La Zhuo
  • Hong Yang

Research units

  • Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology
  • Euro-Mediterranean Center for Climate Change
  • Hohai University
  • Northwest Agriculture and Forestry University
  • Institute of Soil and Water Conservation Chinese Academy of Sciences
  • Southern University of Science and Technology
  • University of Basel

Abstract

International food trade entails virtual water flows across trading partners. It has been proposed to attenuate regional water scarcity by importing water-intensive commodities from water-abundant regions. In addition to alleviating water scarcity in virtual water importing countries, existing studies have reported that food trade also generates global water savings. However, little is known how these global water savings may alleviate water scarcity, which is more relevant to the sustainable use of water resources than only assessing the savings. In this paper, we conducted a comprehensive review on studies of water savings and losses associated with food trade on different spatial scales. We found that the concept of global water savings is built on the disparities in water productivity across countries, whereas the regional water savings measure the inflows of virtual water trade. The significance of water savings is dimmed by the fact that the savings are often not driven by water scarcity. Meanwhile, lacking policy relevance impairs the usefulness of water saving accounting. Future studies should link water savings to alleviating water scarcity at various levels. The water saving accounting needs to go to finer scale, for example, to subnational and river basin scales, to support real water resource management. In the meantime, interdisciplinary efforts are necessary to enhance the water savings as a holistic measure for addressing water scarcity on regional and global scales. This article is categorized under: Engineering Water > Planning Water Human Water > Value of Water Science of Water > Water Quality

Details

Original languageEnglish
Article number1320
Number of pages16
JournalWiley Interdisciplinary Reviews. Water
Volume6
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2019
MoE publication typeA2 Review article in a scientific journal

    Research areas

  • global food trade, virtual water trade, water savings and losses, water scarcity, INTERNATIONAL-TRADE, HIGH-RESOLUTION, FRESH-WATER, CROP MODEL, ANTHROPOGENIC NITROGEN, GROUNDWATER DEPLETION, POLLUTION LEVELS, WHEAT YIELD, FOOTPRINT, SCARCITY

ID: 30820688