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Virtual Water Flows between World-Regions Print E-mail
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Regional virtual-water balances and net interregional virtual-water flows over the period 1997-2001

Map description and dataset provided by: University of Twente, The Netherlands

DescriptionVirtual Water Flows between World-Regions

The map shows the virtual-water balances for thirteen world regions. It also shows the largest net interregional virtual-water flows (>10 billion m3/yr). The virtual water balances and flows refer to trade in agricultural products only. The data are averages for the period 1997-2001.


It is becoming increasingly important to put freshwater issues in a global context. For understanding and solving water problems it is no longer sufficient to use the river basin level as the spatial unit of analysis. Local water depletion and pollution are often closely tied to the structure of the global economy. With increasing trade between nations and continents, water is more frequently used to produce exported goods. International trade in commodities implies long-distance transfers of water in virtual form, where virtual water is understood as the volume of water that has been used to produce a commodity and that is thus virtually embedded in it. Knowledge about the virtual-water flows entering and leaving a country can cast a completely new light on the actual water scarcity of a country. For example, Jordan imports about 5 to 7 billion m3 of virtual water per year, which is in sharp contrast with the 1 billion m3 of water withdrawn annually from domestic water sources. This means that people in Jordan apparently survive owing to the import of water-intensive commodities from elsewhere, for example the USA.


The dataset for this map was provided by: A.Y. Hoekstra, University of Twente, The Netherlands


The dataset was created within the context of the interdisciplinary research programme “Globalisation of Water”, carried out by the UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education and the University of Twente.


Please cite this map as: "GWSP Digital Water Atlas (2008). Map 32: Virtual Water Flows between World-Regions (V1.0). Available online at http://atlas.gwsp.org."

Contact Information

Arjen Y. Hoekstra, Professor in Multidisciplinary Water Management, University of Twente, Faculty of Engineering Technology, Department of Water Engineering and Management, P.O.Box 217, 7500 AE Enschede, Netherlands, Phone +31 53 489 3880 / Fax +31 53 489

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