Publications — Virtual Water Trade

The Water-Food Nexus in Italy: A Virtual Water Perspective

by Water To Food Team

Agriculture has a long-standing tradition over the Italian territory, and its geography is significantly heterogeneous across regions, due to different hydro-climatic conditions and local practices. This chapter examines the Italian water use in the agricultural sector by considering both the local water use and the reliance on external water resources occurring through the import of primary and derived commodities.

The water assessment is carried out by means of the “water footprint” concept, which aims at quantifying the amount of water required for the production of a good, and the “virtual water trade”, which tracks the exchange of water resources from producing countries, where water has been physically used, to consuming countries.

In the first part of this chapter, the Italian virtual water balance is analysed considering the amount of water imported, exported and locally used for production. Overall, an increase of the virtual water import and a decline in the use of local water resources are observed: Italy relies on imported water resources for more about half of its food consumption. In the second part, the role of Italy in the international trade network is assessed.

Results show that Italy is primarily a net importer of virtual water from other countries (e.g. France, Germany, Brazil, Indonesia), but, at the same time, it is also a net exporter towards the UK, the Mediterranean region, the USA and other minor countries. In the third part, the spatial variability of water use across Italy is explored, looking at the subregional spatial variability to highlight the production sites generating the largest water footprint.