Mar 20, 2008

"Virtual Water" Innovator Awarded 2008 Stockholm Water Prize

Professor John Anthony Allan, who pioneered the concept of "virtual water," was named this year's Laureate

Professor John Anthony Allan from King's College London and the School of Oriental and African Studies, a pioneer of concepts key to the understanding and communication of water issues and how they are linked to agriculture, climate change, economics and politics, was named the 2008 Stockholm Water Prize Laureate.

People do not only consume water when they drink it or take a shower. In 1993, Prof. Allan made a major breakthrough in how to demonstrate this by introducing "virtual water," a measurement of the water that is embedded in the production of foods and consumer products. Behind that morning cup of coffee, there are about 37 gal of water that was consumed to grow, produce, package, and ship the beans. That is roughly equal to the amount of water used by an average person in England for all their daily drinking and household needs. One hamburger holds about 634 gal. An average American consumes over 1,585 gal of virtual water every day; over triple the average Chinese.

These insights gained through Allan's work have made major impacts on global trade policy and research and have redefined discourse in water policy and management. Water-intensive commodities can be traded from places where high returns to water can be achieved to economies that cannot produce as efficiently.

This has influenced national water and trade policies and has significant implications for balancing global water resources. Application of the virtual water concept provides the potential to use trade to alleviate regional water scarcity and make water resources use more efficient. This both improves capacity for sustainable management of global water resources for future generations and reduces the risk that nations go to war over scarce water resources.

Allan, a prolific author and educator, is a leading expert on global water resources, conflict resolution and the Middle East and North Africa regions. He has been described as one of the most influential thinkers in the water sector today.

The Stockholm Water Prize, presented annually by the Stockholm Water Foundation, is worth $150,000. The prize will be presented during the World Water Week in Stockholm, Sweden, on Aug. 21 in the Stockholm City Hall. H.M. King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden is the Patron of the Stockholm Water Prize.