Publications — Society, Economics, Governance

The Italian Virtual Water Trade and Water Footprint of Agricultural Production: Trends and Perspectives

by Water To Food Team

The 10th chapter of the book "Water Policy, Law and Economics in Italy: Between National Autonomy and EU Law Constraints'' contributes to the knowledge about the water-food-trade nexus in Italy by introducing the concepts of water footprint and virtual water trade.

The virtual water (VW) is the water embedded in the production of agricultural and industrial goods and services, whereas virtual water trade (VWT) refers to the exchange of such embedded water that takes place as a result of the international commodity trade. The VWT implies a dependency of countries on foreign resources, a corresponding vulnerability to external crises, as well as an externalism of pollution, costs and water- management problems.

The concept of VW complemented by the WF assessment, proved to be useful to raise public awareness on the role of water in the production of goods of daily use, to shed light on the environmental consequences of consumers' choices, and to highlight the role of different dietary regimes in shaping our impacts on water resources.

The chapter aims at outlining the Italian green and blue water footprint of agricultural production, as well as providing a comprehensive overview of virtual water trade connected to the agricultural commodity trade, over the period 1985–2016. The quantitative analyses are complemented by a policy-relevant discussion detailing the practical causes and implications of the results.