Virtual water in middle east

September 6, 2012

Virtual water is a measure of the amount of water that is used in production of any product or service. It is almost similar to the carbon footprint concept. The main objective of this concept is to raise awareness on how water can be conserved through production of less water intensive goods and importation of goods with high virtual water content. The virtual water concept has been used to influence policies concerning agriculture and trade. It has been argued that importing more water intensive products and producing less water intensive products can go a long way in conserving a country’s water resources. Conservationists argue that exporting water intensive products amounts to giving the precious commodity away. Jordan is a good example of how virtual water in Middle east is conserved. This argument has also been used to discourage production of water intensive goods in arid and semi arid areas. This does augur well with agriculturalists who see the concept as an argument against agricultural subsidies meant to encourage food production through irrigation in arid areas. Also proposed by the concept is the introduction of tax based on products’ virtual water content in a bid to discourage consumption of water intensive products. Virtual water content in a product is measured in terms of liters of water used to produce a kilogram of that product. The main limitation of this concept is that there is no standard way of measuring a product’s virtual water content. Besides, the concept assumes that all products (such as food and cosmetics) are comparable on the same scale. A lot of errors are also introduced in calculating virtual water content to the extent of discrediting the importance of those figures. It is also difficult to determine the amount of water that was used during the production of a given product, especially when other products with their own virtual water contents were used during its production. It fails as an argument in influencing public policy because it does show how foregone virtual water can be put into profitable use.

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