Inequalities in the Networks of Virtual Water Flow


The globalization of water associated with the trade of food commodities has often been acclaimed as a means to save water, mitigate the effect of regional- and local-scale water scarcity, and meet the demand for food in overpopulated and water-poor countries. However, there are negative implications for water use from globalization of trade. For instance, globalization disconnects populations from local sustainable freshwater use. This distance between societies and the resources on which they rely is a major obstacle to the emergence of behaviors that foster ecosystem stewardship through a responsible management of the environment. The globalization of water is also expected to reduce societal resilience to drought by decreasing the redundancy of freshwater resources, thereby limiting opportunities to meet human needs during periods of crisis. Overall, globalization enhances inequalities in the way different societies may have access to freshwater resources. In fact, only a few countries control most of the water that is virtually exchanged—through food trade—in the global market.

Eos, Transactions of the American Geophysical Union