What is wrong with virtual water trading?
AbstractSo-called virtual water, the water embedded in internationally traded goods, has come under discussion. The amount of quantitative studies which attempt to estimate volumes and flows of virtual water in relation to agricultural trade is rising rapidly, while the concept has been recognized by large firms and international institutions. From the viewpoint of economic trade theory, the endowment with abundant water resources gives countries a comparative advantage in the export of waterintensive goods, while water scarce countries gain the option to alleviate stress on domestic water resources by substituting the production of water-intensive goods by imports. However, fairness implications are seen to arise in the reallocation of water resources through the means of mostly agricultural trade. In this perspective, moral problems can be attached to both imports and exports, and even to a country's own consumption of virtual water. Global institutional arrangements are therefore suggested, to regulate virtual water flows in a "fair" and "efficient" manner. This paper will give a short overview of the concept's history and findings, and subsequently analyse it from the perspective of economic trade and resource theory. The contribution of this paper will be to examine the concept of virtual water in terms of the problems it evokes, its informative value and the policy suggestions which are made in this context. It must be concluded that the concept is unspecific and inconsistent, implying governance schemes which will neither improve efficiency nor sustainability in today's trade patterns. --
Download InfoIf you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.
Bibliographic InfoPaper provided by Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ), Division of Social Sciences (ÖKUS) in its series UFZ Discussion Papers with number 1/2011.
Date of creation: 2011
Date of revision:
Contact details of provider:
Postal: Permoserstraße 15, 04318 Leipzig
Phone: ++49 - 0341 - 235-2771
Fax: ++49 - 0341 - 235-2825
Web page: http://www.ufz.de/index.php?en=1445
More information through EDIRC
virtual water; water footprint; international trade; global water governance;
Find related papers by JEL classification:
- F18 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Trade and Environment
- Q25 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Renewable Resources and Conservation - - - Water
- Q27 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Renewable Resources and Conservation - - - Issues in International Trade
- Q56 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Environment and Development; Environment and Trade; Sustainability; Environmental Accounts and Accounting; Environmental Equity; Population Growth
This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
- Siebert, Horst, 1996. "Trade policy and environmental protection," Kiel Working Papers 730, Kiel Institute for the World Economy.
- Carl-Erik Schulz, 1996. "Trade policy and ecology," Environmental & Resource Economics, European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 8(1), pages 15-38, July.
- Kumar, M. Dinesh & Singh, Om Prakash, . "Virtual water in global food and water policy making: is there a need for rethinking?," Papers published in Journals (Open Access) h036595, International Water Management Institute.
- Kym Anderson, 2004.
"The challenge of Reducing Subsidies and Trade Barriers,"
Centre for International Economic Studies Working Papers
2004-12, University of Adelaide, Centre for International Economic Studies.
- Anderson, Kym, 2004. "The challenge of reducing subsidies and trade barriers," Policy Research Working Paper Series 3415, The World Bank.
- Anderson, Kym, 2004. "The Challenge of Reducing Subsidies and Trade Barriers," CEPR Discussion Papers 4592, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
- Ansink, Erik, 2010. "Refuting two claims about virtual water trade," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 69(10), pages 2027-2032, August.
- Wichelns, Dennis, 2004. "The policy relevance of virtual water can be enhanced by considering comparative advantages," Agricultural Water Management, Elsevier, vol. 66(1), pages 49-63, April.
- de Fraiture, Charlotte & Cai, X & Amarasinghe, Upali & Rosegrant, M. & Molden, David, 2004. "Does international cereal trade save water?: the impact of virtual water trade on global water use," IWMI Research Reports H035342, International Water Management Institute.
- van den Bergh, Jeroen C. J. M. & Verbruggen, Harmen, 1999. "Spatial sustainability, trade and indicators: an evaluation of the 'ecological footprint'," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 29(1), pages 61-72, April.
- Brian R. Copeland & M. Scott Taylor, 2004.
"Trade, Tragedy, and the Commons,"
NBER Working Papers
10836, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (ZBW - German National Library of Economics).
If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.