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Opportunity costs of virtual water: a justification for green-water based agricultural capacity growth for economic, social and environmental sustainability

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)49-57
Number of pages9
JournalItalian Journal of Agrometeorology
VolumeSpecial Issue
Issue number2015
Published1 Oct 2015


  • IJA Special Issue

    IJA_Special_Issue.pdf, 16.7 MB, application/pdf

    Uploaded date:06 Nov 2018

    Version:Final published version

King's Authors


Traditional development of water and agriculture based on irrigation tends to lead to over-extraction of
environmentally-derived water as water use rises to an unsustainable peak. This behaviour is usually remedied by
maintaining agricultural production while re-investing in efficiency and alternative water resources. Such behaviours
effectively pay twice for the same production capacity. An alternative approach would adopt a different development
pathway; a conjunctive use of both irrigation (blue) water and rainfed soil (green) water to provide a reliable production,
meaning that ‘virtual water’ exported in crops contains less blue water. Blue water resources can then be directed at activities
with a higher opportunity cost (industrial and municipal use), yielding greater value per drop to local populations, especially
important when using non-renewable groundwater. Through sustainable optimisation of resource allocation, the new
paradigm of agricultural water development avoids, an unsustainable over-development of water, and greater virtual water

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