Evolution of the global virtual water trade network

Carole Dalin, Megan Konar, Naota Hanasaki, Andrea Rinaldo, Ignacio Rodriguez-Iturbe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Global freshwater resources are under increasing pressure from economic development, population growth, and climate change. The international trade of water-intensive products (e.g., agricultural commodities) or virtual water trade has been suggested as a way to save water globally. We focus on the virtual water trade network associated with international food trade built with annual trade data and annual modeled virtual water content. The evolution of this network from 1986 to 2007 is analyzed and linked to trade policies, socioeconomic circumstances, and agricultural efficiency. We find that the number of trade connections and the volume of water associated with global food trade more than doubled in 22 years. Despite this growth, constant organizational features were observed in the network. However, both regional and national virtual water trade patterns significantly changed. Indeed, Asia increased its virtual water imports by more than 170%, switching from North America to South America as its main partner, whereas North America oriented to a growing intraregional trade. A dramatic rise in China's virtual water imports is associated with its increased soy imports after a domestic policy shift in 2000. Significantly, this shift has led the global soy market to save water on a global scale, but it also relies on expanding soy production in Brazil, which contributes to deforestation in the Amazon. We find that the international food trade has led to enhanced savings in global water resources over time, indicating its growing efficiency in terms of global water use.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5989-5994
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Volume109
Issue number16
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 17 2012
Externally publishedYes

Fingerprint

Water
Food
Water Resources
Economic Development
Climate Change
Population Growth
Conservation of Natural Resources
Fresh Water
Brazil

Keywords

  • Hydrology
  • Trade policy
  • Water savings

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

Cite this

Evolution of the global virtual water trade network. / Dalin, Carole; Konar, Megan; Hanasaki, Naota; Rinaldo, Andrea; Rodriguez-Iturbe, Ignacio.

In: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, Vol. 109, No. 16, 17.04.2012, p. 5989-5994.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Dalin C, Konar M, Hanasaki N, Rinaldo A, Rodriguez-Iturbe I. Evolution of the global virtual water trade network. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 2012 Apr 17;109(16):5989-5994. Available from, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1203176109

Dalin, Carole; Konar, Megan; Hanasaki, Naota; Rinaldo, Andrea; Rodriguez-Iturbe, Ignacio / Evolution of the global virtual water trade network.

In: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, Vol. 109, No. 16, 17.04.2012, p. 5989-5994.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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