Virtual Water

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This post is part of our definitions series on “eco-lingo” and technical terms.

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Virtual water (also referred to as embodied water) is the volume of fresh water used to produce a product at the location of production. This concept of virtual water applies to everything we use or buy, such as clothes, electronics, food, and building materials. For example, the average virtual water associated with 1 egg would be 53 gallons.

(For those familiar with energy issues, this is similar to embodied energy.)

The creator of the virtual water concept, Professor John Anthony Allan, was initially researching agricultural water issues in the Middle East and concluded that the region could survive with scarce water because it was importing large amounts of “virtual water” embedded in its food imports.

You can hear a podcast of Professor Allan’s seminar on virtual water here.

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What exactly does “sustainability” mean? How about “green”, “eco” or “environmentally friendly”? The truth is that these terms are just vague enough to mean many different things to many different people. With the staggering array of “green” products, ‘lifestyles’ and concepts being promoted by marketers and environmentalists alike (as well as the necessary coining of new terms to match new ideas) our definition series aims to make sense of the rising tide of “eco-lingo” and technical terms.

One comment on “Virtual Water

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