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Does the Global Trade of Virtual Water Reduce Inequality in Freshwater Resource Allocation?

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Some countries require more freshwater resources than they control to maintain their current populations and standards of living. These countries import virtual water in the form of agricultural or industrial products to balance their water needs. Virtual water is the volume of water used to produce, but not necessarily contained within, agricultural and industrial products. It is thought that virtual water trade creates a more equal (narrower) distribution of water resources, a prerequisite to supporting large and growing populations in water scarce nations. I use United Nations data and statistical measures of inequality to quantitatively assess the effect of international trade on equality in global freshwater resource distributions. The distribution of virtual water is considerably more equal than the distribution of renewable freshwater resources between countries. However, this impact is limited when considering that many countries do not fully exploit their total volume of renewable freshwater resources.

Keywords: Gini coefficient; freshwater resources; inequality; virtual water; water scarcity

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Environmental Sciences,University of Virginia, CharlottesvilleVirginia, USA

Publication date: 2011-11-01

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