Blue water footprint linked to national consumption and international trade is unsustainable

Mesfin M. Mekonnen*, Arjen Y. Hoekstra

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Increasing pressure on the world’s freshwater resources raises serious concerns about global food security and the sustainability of water use in agriculture. Here we quantify and map at a 5-arcmin spatial resolution the blue water footprint of each country’s national consumption and where they infringe sustainable environmental flows as defined by the presumptive environmental flow standard or the 80% rule, in which runoff depletion by more than 20% will pose risk to ecosystems. We find that 52% of the blue water footprint of global consumption and 43% of international blue virtual water flows come from places where the sustainable environmental flow is violated. About 22% of the environmental flow infringement of the blue water footprint of global consumption lies outside the specific countries of consumption, indicating that a number of them have externalized their impacts. By establishing a link between the consumption of a product in one place and water scarcity in places far from the place of consumption, our assessment may aid a dialogue on how to assign and share responsibilities concerning water use.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)792-800
Number of pages9
JournalNature Food
Volume1
Issue number12
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 11 Dec 2020

Keywords

  • 22/2 OA procedure

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