Water Footprint and Virtual Water Trade of Brazil

Vicente de Paulo R. da Silva, Sonaly D. de Oliveira, Arjen Ysbert Hoekstra, Jose Dantas Neto, João Hugo B.C. Campos, Celia C. Braga, Lincoln Eloi Araújo, Danilo Oliveira Aleixo, Jose Ivaldo B. de Brito, Marcio Dionisio de Souza, Romildo M. de Holanda

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

36 Citations (Scopus)
163 Downloads (Pure)


Freshwater scarcity has increased at an alarming rate worldwide; improved water management plays a vital role in increasing food production and security. This study aims to determine the water footprint of Brazil’s national food consumption, the virtual water flows associated with international trade in the main agricultural commodities, as well as water scarcity, water self-sufficiency and water dependency per Brazilian region. While previous country studies on water footprints and virtual water trade focused on virtual water importers or water-scarce countries, this is the first study to concentrate on a water-abundant virtual water-exporting country. Besides, it is the first study establishing international virtual water trade balances per state, which is relevant given the fact that water scarcity varies across states within the country, so the origin of virtual water exports matters. The results show that the average water footprint of Brazilian food consumption is 1619 m3/person/year. Beef contributes most (21%) to this total. We find a net virtual water export of 54.8 billion m3/year, mainly to Europe, which imports 41% of the gross amount of the virtual water exported from Brazil. The northeast, the region with the highest water scarcity, has a net import of virtual water. The southeast, next in terms of water scarcity, shows large virtual water exports, mainly related to the export of sugar. The north, which has the most water, does not show a high virtual water export rate.
Original languageEnglish
Article number517
Pages (from-to)517-
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • IR-102673
  • METIS-319268


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