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Virtual Water Savings and Trade in Agriculture

The idea of virtual, or embedded, water was initially created as a method for assessing how water-rare nations could offer food, clothing and other water-intensive products to their residents (Water Footprint Network para. 1). The global commerce of products has ensured that nations with minimum water resources can depend on water resources in different countries to address their citizens’ issues. As agricultural and other non-agricultural products are exchanged globally, their water footprints are left in the virtual water trail. This ensures water footprint during production can be linked to the water footprint of utilization, wherever they happen.

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Therefore, virtual water footprints help researchers and the public understand how water extracted in a different nation is utilized to drive other activities in other different countries across the world. In this case, the global food trade is vital in explaining water footprint and virtual water. It is expected that the total volume of food export should be about the same volume of the import to attain market clearance (Yang et al. 446). This observation is particularly so when controlled over a timeframe as the impact of yearly stock trade is leveled out. Regarding the worldwide virtual water trade, nonetheless, this balance does not matter. The water utilized for creating a given quantity of food contrasts differs over various nations. The virtual water “value” of a specific amount of food may not be the same for the exporting and importing countries. At the point when virtual water imports and exports for every one of the states are aggregated independently, a gap is realized between the volumes under comparison. Contingent upon the indicator of the gap, a worldwide water-saving or loss related to virtual water trade can be resolved (Yang et al. 446).

The aggregated volume of virtual water export linked to food crops evaluated is around 644 km3/year, while the corresponding import volume was 981 km3/year, demonstrating a variety of 337 km/year (Yang et al. 446). This volume is the worldwide water-saving efforts emanating from food trades. As it were, this quantity of extra water would somehow be needed if the imported amounts of food were grown in the importing states. For individual products, the rate of water-saving fluctuates. For wheat and maize, the food trade has brought about a 41% and 59% decrease in the global water consumption in producing the exchanged quantities of the individual products. The exchanging of these two products contributes enormously to the aggregate global water saving. A particular case is rice in which the quantity of virtual water exemplified in rice traded is more significant than that in rice import. This infers that rice production in the exporting nations requires more water than the production in importing countries. This may mostly be viewed through the generally high harvest evapotranspiration in the significant rice exporting nations, such as Vietnam and Thailand (Yang et al. 446). The water-saving accomplished at the global level mirrors a moderately high water efficiency in the major exporting nations.

In some cases, studies show that the water effectiveness of wheat is almost always more than 1 kg/m3 in the primary exporting nations in North America and Western Europe in contrast with a low level of 0.6 kg/m3 in numerous countries in Africa and Focal Asia. For maize, water efficiency is more than 1.5 kg/m3 in the United States, Australia, and the EU nations (Yang et al. 446). Conversely, data indicate that many countries in Africa and Central Asia have mainly recorded lower productivity of not more than 0.9 kg/m3. It is seen that the low water efficiency is primarily found in developing nations. This observed circumstance is expected because the level of water productivity is firmly linked to material inputs, agronomic practices, and management of water resources across various levels, including farms. Attempts to improve water productivity are regularly connected with more considerable material investment and enhanced agronomic practices and water management, which is mainly poor in developing nations.

Numerous countries save residential water resources by importing water-rich products and trading less water-intensive products (Water Footprint Network para. 10). National water-saving noted by product importation can suggest saving water at a worldwide level if the water footprint is from areas with moderately high water efficiency (i.e., products with a little water footprint) to areas with low water productivity (products with an expansive water footprint).

The aggregate sum of water that would have been needed in the importing nations if all foreign agricultural products were grown locally is 2,407 billion cubic meters for every year (Water Footprint Network para. 10). Such crops, in any case, are being produced with slightly over 2,000 billion m3 each year in the nations of origin, and this reflects about 369 billion m3 each year of saved water resources worldwide (Water Footprint Network para. 10). The noted efficiency is comparable to four percent of the world regions’ water footprint associated with crops, approximately 8,360 billion m3 annually (Water Footprint Network para. 10).

In countries with scarce water resources, water policymakers will probably be keener on saving water resources than at the global level. There are numerous cases of nations with limited water resources that save their local water resources by importing water-rich products. A country that imports grains, for instance, is most likely to protect more volumes of water every year and conserve its water resources. Thus, the saved volume of water is the same amount that country would need locally if it requires to grow its grain within its borders.

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Water productivity is noted as the quantity of water needed for every product (Hoekstra, 21). It usually is higher at the production location relative to the utilization location. This implies that the actual virtual water component of an item, which relies on the production conditions at the product site, usually is less than the speculative virtual water component of the product if the item would have been produced at the location of consumption (Hoekstra 21). Countries also have different virtual water contents. Egypt, for instance, has higher virtual water content in its maize relative to France. Therefore, Egypt saves about 0.52 m3 of water when it imports maize from France because of variations in contents (Hoekstra 21). Some findings demonstrate that virtual water-saving globally due to agricultural trade is about 455×109 m3/yr based on the average water consumption of 5400×109 m3/yr by crops (Hoekstra 21). Thus, countries with limited water resources significantly benefit through the importation of high water content products.

Works Cited

Hoekstra, Arjen Y. Virtual Water Trade. IHE Delf, 2003.

Liu, Junguo, et al. “Recent Evolution of China’s Virtual Water Trade: Analysis of Selected Crops and Considerations for Policy.” Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, vol. 18, 2014, 1349–1357, Web.

Water Footprint Network. Virtual Water Trade. n.d. Web.

Yang, H., et al. “Virtual Water Trade: An Assessment of Water Use Efficiency in the International Food Trade.” Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, vol. 10, no. 3, 2006, pp. 443–454. Web.

Zhang, Zhuoying, et al. “Analyses of Impacts of China’s International Trade on its Water Resources and Uses.” Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, vol. 15, 2011, pp. 2871–2880, Web.

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