Far more potent than oil or gold, water is a stream of geopolitical force that runs deep, feeding crops and building nations
The virtual river starts anywhere water feeds agriculture. But from there, physical water vanishes, replaced by a flow of crops that carry only the memory of the water used to produce them. Crops then travel along the shipping lanes of the global trade system, eventually displacing the water that would have otherwise been used to grow them locally. Thus, water flows from source to destination ‘embedded’ in its products. It is a flow of ‘virtual water’, an idea first developed in the 1980s by the late geographer Tony Allan.