Inventor of virtual water wins international accolade
by David Masters
March 26, 2008
A university professor has received international recognition for his concept of virtual water.
Professor Tony Allan, of King’s College London, discovered that large amounts of water are embedded in the production of industrial and food products. The importance of his breakthrough discovery is to be recognised in August this year when he will be awarded with the US$150,000 Stockholm Water Prize Laureate.
The virtual water concept has made it possible to work out the amount of water used in the production of food products. For example, producing a hamburger requires 2,400 litres of water, including the water used to grow food for the cow, the water drunk by the cow, and the water used to produce, package and transport the burger.
Professor Allen first thought up the concept in 1993 when he was trying to work out why there were so few conflicts in the Middle East during the 1960s in spite of rising populations and water scarcity. He then worked out that by importing food and goods, the Middle Eastern countries were actually importing water at the same time.
According to Professor Allen the problem of water scarcity is “a challenge far greater than climate change” with more than 2 billion people worldwide lacking access to clean water.
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