Ruth Schaldach

Global Water Crisis -Policy transfer in Integrated Water
Management considering the Virtual Water Trade of Net
exporting countries with water scarcity

The PhD research project started October 2009 and focuses on the globalisation of water. The work concentrates on the link between regional water scarcity and international trade.
Research will be conducted on water scarce regions, which are virtual water exporters. Geographical project Focus: Australia and Vietnam
The project investigates normative, legal and political barriers in order to implement macro and micro economic strategies to regulate global virtual water trade.
Especially, in the last two decades increased market deregulation stimulated economic growth and international trade as one part of globalisation, which also in turn affected water resources. Water globalized by shifting from being a local public good towards a globally traded commodity. Water Trade increased through trade of drinking water transported in water bottles and water pipelines, however, the majority of water travels in the form of embedded water content in traded goods (virtual water)(Hoekstra, 2008; Barlow, 2007).
Unfortunately, in some regions such as Australia, booming exports due to market liberalisation resulted in the contradiction of developing into some of the worlds biggest virtual water net exporters, whilst at the same time experiencing local water stress. (Hoekstra,2008) Water stress is becoming a more severe problem as a point of fact. Water resources are finite, unevenly distributed and at high risk (FAO, 2009). Even 1995 were only less than 1% of the world’s water is usable for human nutritious needs (FAO, 1995), but threatened by over withdrawal and pollution, especially in already arid regions like Australia. Fragile water systems can suffer non reparable damages due to over exploitation. Even conservative predictions warn that, if water is not managed well, the usable part of our water cycle will shrink whilst the demand for water increases (Fishbone, 2007).
Local scarcity results in global water stress, which makes global strategies necessary to avoid over consumption and pollution of water resources. As unregulated trade of virtual (embedded) water contributed greatly towards over consumption a focus will be set on trade regulations considering virtual water contents. The project will explore barriers on a local, national and international level. Australia and Vietnam are used as the main case studies to assess existing approaches and to develop future strategies to prevent over exploitation of water resources, especially when related to international trade. Water as a resource is not only one of the basic elements for our industrial productivity; it is one of the most basic needs for the survival of human kind. Apart from a vitally direct dependency on clean drinking water, we rely on a highly water consumptive food production and sanitation needs. Therefore, the primary motivation for conducting this research in the field of preservation of water resources is to contribute to the prevention or reduction of a global water crisis with its severe socioeconomic implications.