How a side dish creates a water crisis
September 23, 2010

When products raised in water-rich places are created with that water, then shipped to water-poor places, it creates an exchange in "virtual water." Perhaps the most obvious example, aside from the bottled-water industry, is in agriculture, where water-thirsty crops are routinely exported around the world. Corn, for instance, is a water-thirsty crop, which is why Iowa (with a relatively abundant natural water supply and good precipitation characteristics) is a massive exporter of "virtual water" to the rest of the world. But in Peru, water supplies are reportedly being drained at a stunning rate in order to irrigate asparagus for export to places like the UK. According to a report from a British charity, the water use to raise asparagus in Peru is enough to threaten the drinking-water supplies for 300,000 people.

Water supplies will only become more important as a political issue in the future, both domestically and internationally. That's why we take such a great interest in ways to re-use water in place.

September 2010
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last revised September 2010