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.
- 22/2 OA procedure