Publications — Resilience and vulnerabilities

Food demand displaced by global refugee migration influences water use in already water stressed countries

by Water To Food Team

Millions of people displaced by conflicts have found refuge in water-scarce countries, where their perceived effect on water availability has shaped local water security discourses. Using an annual global data set, we explain the effects of refugee migrations on the host countries’ water stress through the food demand displaced by refugees and the water necessary to produce that food. The water footprint of refugee displacement increased by nearly 75% globally between 2005 and 2016. Although minimal in most countries, implications can be severe in countries already facing severe water stress. For example, refugees may have contributed up to 75 percentage points to water stress in Jordan. While water considerations should not, alone, determine trade and migration policy, we find that small changes to current international food supply flows and refugee resettlement procedures can potentially ease the effect of refugee displacement on water stress in water-vulnerable countries.