Eco Preservation : Virtual Water : Must know Concept

If you are an environmental activist or care about environment, please read this concept of Virtual Water, if you are not aware of. This will give a lot of insights to think of.  It is a known fact that only 3% of fresh water we have in the whole earth. Virtual Water is such a worthy perspective  which can be fine tuned for a better ideas and policies in the future. 

We have complied fundamental information from various sources and presenting it here. More updates will be there in our future posts. Hope this is useful. We value your comments. Please share your opinion.

– Team- Propel Steps

What is Virtual Water? 

“The water is said to be virtual because once the wheat is grown, the real water used to grow it is no longer actually contained in the wheat. The concept of virtual water helps us realize how much water is needed to produce different goods and services. In semi-arid and arid areas, knowing the virtual water value of a good or service can be useful towards determining how best to use the scarce water available.”

– Professor John Anthony Allan from King’s College London


Virtual Water measures may vary depends on the place of consumption.
Virtual Water measures may vary depends on the place of consumption.


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.

Limitations of the virtual water measure

Key shortcomings of virtual water measures are that the concept:

  1. Relies on an assumption that all sources of water, whether in the form of rainfall or provided through an irrigation system, are of equal value.
  2. Implicitly assumes that water that would be released by reducing a high water use activity would necessarily be available for use in a less water-intensive activity. For example, the implicit assumption is that water used in rangeland beef production would be available to be used to produce an alternative, less water-intensive activity. As a practical matter this may not be the case, nor might the alternatives be economic.
  3. Fails as an indicator of environmental harm nor does it provide any indication of whether water resources are being used within sustainable extraction limits. The use of virtual water estimates therefore offer no guidance for policy makers seeking to ensure that environmental objectives are being met.

The Water Foot Print

The concept of virtual water trade was introduced to refer to the idea that countries can save domestic water by importing food. Imported food, however, comes from somewhere.  The 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.

  • The production of one kilogram of beef requires 15 thousand litres of water. There is a huge variation around this global average. The precise footprint of a piece of beef depends on factors such as the type of production system and the composition and origin of the feed of the cow. 
  • The water footprint of a 150-gram soy burger produced in the Netherlands is about 160 litres. A beef burger from the same country costs about 1000 litres
  • The water footprint of Chinese consumption is about 1070 cubic meter per year per capita. About 10% of the Chinese water footprint falls outside China. 
  • Japan with a footprint of 1380 cubic meter per year per capita, has about 77% of its total water footprint outside the borders of the country. 
  • The water footprint of US citizens is 2840 cubic meter per year per capita. About 20% of this water footprint is external. The largest external water footprint of US consumption lies in the Yangtze river basin, China.
  • The global water footprint in the period 1996-2005 was 9087 Gm3/yr (74% green, 11% blue, 15% grey). Agricultural production contributes 92% to this total footprint. 
  • Water scarcity affects over 2.7 billion people for at least one month each year. 
Virtual Water Consumption of various products  Note : 1 US gallons = 3.79 Litres
Virtual Water Consumption of various products
Note : 1 US gallons = 3.79 Litres

Source & Courtesy : Wikipedia,

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