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Virtual Allocations: Expanding the Framework of Hydro-Hegemony to Inform Virtual Water Trade

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference paper

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication2014 Norwich Conference on Earth System Governance
Subtitle of host publicationAccess and Allocation in the Anthropocene
Unpublished2014
Event2014 Norwich Conference on Earth System Governance: Access and Allocation in the Anthropocene - University of East Anglia, Norwich, United Kingdom
Duration: 1 Jul 20143 Jul 2014

Conference

Conference2014 Norwich Conference on Earth System Governance: Access and Allocation in the Anthropocene
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
CityNorwich
Period1/07/20143/07/2014

Documents

  • Farnum ESG Virtual Allocations 1July2014

    Farnum_ESG_Virtual_Allocations_1July2014.pdf, 1.15 MB, application/pdf

    Uploaded date:06 Nov 2014

    Version:Final published version

    © Farnum, Rebecca L. 2014.

  • Virtual Allocations Paper

    Farnum_Virtual_Allocations.pdf, 1.06 MB, application/pdf

    Uploaded date:06 Nov 2014

    Version:Submitted manuscript

    © Farnum, Rebecca L. 2014. "Virtual Allocations: Expanding the Framework of Hydro-Hegemony to Inform Virtual Water Trade." Paper presented at the 2014 Norwich Conference on Earth System Governance: Access and Allocation in the Anthropocene.

King's Authors

Abstract

This paper investigates the relationship between access to water resources, global trade patterns, and power through the lens of virtual water and hydro-hegemony. “Virtual water” has been defined by Tony Allan as “the water needed to produce agricultural commodities”, with recognition that the term could be expanded to include other commodities as well (2003). Virtual water trade refers to the ability of countries to trade ‘water’ by importing and exporting goods requiring water for production, rather than actual water.
Proponents of virtual water trade argue that food trades from water-rich, arable land to arid land can help to enhance the arid area’s food and water securities, freeing up local water resources for other uses. Critics of the virtual water discourse are concerned that highlighting markets and trade as the saviours of water-poor countries may be yet another component of the neoliberal economic prescription. This paper will seek to shed light on this debate, considering the power relations at play in how virtual water is accessed and allocated by expanding the Framework of Hydro-Hegemony.
In 2006, Zeitoun and Warner introduced the Framework of Hydro-Hegemony, an analytical tool for analysing transboundary water conflicts. This paper will expand that Framework to be relevant for analysis of virtual water trade patterns. Applying this expanded Framework of Virtual Hydro-Hegemony to three case studies (Peruvian asparagus exported to the United Kingdom, American cereals imported by Egypt, and Israeli agricultural produce consumed in the European Union) indicates that virtual water flows are highly subject to hydro-hegemony, shaped by material, bargaining, and ideational powers. The paper will conclude with suggestions for how scholars and practitioners concerned with access to resources might engage with virtual water allocations.

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