On Wednesday, the Council of Canadians released a new report entitled Leaky Exports: A portrait of the virtual water trade in Canada. The report reveals alarming facts about the virtual water trade including the fact that Canada is the second net virtual water exporter in the world. The report provides an overview of the concept of virtual water trade as well as an analysis of the current and projected volume of water that is exported out of the country in the form of agricultural and industrial goods. This report is important food for thought for policy-makers responsible for protecting Canada’s freshwater sources and ensuring sustainable water use for generations to come.
What is virtual water?
Virtual, or embedded, water is the amount of water used to produce a good or a service. Virtual water content is the volume of fresh water used to produce a product. For example, it takes 140 litres to produce one cup of coffee (125 ml). See the table below for the virtual water content of commonly used, day-to-day items.