Virtual Water - Tony Allan
Professor Tony Allan’s virtual water concept, also known as embedded water, has transformed public and private sector water policy and metrics in the UK and internationally. The virtual water concept demonstrates that the majority of water consumed globally is used within the production and consumption of goods and services, especially food.
The virtual water concept can be most simply communicated in numbers. For example, using global averages, one kilogram of beef contains approximately 15400 litres of water, while a single apple contains about 70 litres of water. Virtual Water is the water that is required to feed and rear the cow or grow the apple.
The concept of
virtual water has helped the public, industry, academia, NGOs and decision
makers to understand that the majority of water we consume is the water that we
eat. The concept informs across scales from national security through to
families. Coca Cola, Nestle and PepsiCo have all explored how virtual water can
help improve their supply chains and increase the sustainability of their
products. The U.S. State Department, the
Dutch Government, the UK House of Lords, the Food and Agricultural
Organization, WWF and the Royal Academy of Engineers among others recognize the
importance of virtual water in informing environmental sustainability and food
security. Virtual water has also created significant business opportunities
with a number of consultancies from around the world now undertaking virtual
water assessments of business supply chains.
developed the concept of virtual water while researching why Middle Eastern and
North African countries were able to meet food security despite their water
scarce economies. He discovered that countries import the water they need in
the form of food and called this virtual water. For developing the concept of
virtual water and for his leadership and contributions across the water sector
Professor Allan was awarded the Stockholm World Water Prize in 2008, the
Florence Monito Water Prize in 2013 and the Monaco Water Prize in 2013.