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"Virtual Water" innovator wins 2008 Stockholm Water Prize
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13:49, March 20, 2008

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Professor John Anthony Allan from King's College London and the School of Oriental and African Studies has been named the 2008 Stockholm Water Prize Laureate. This was announced at a seminar in Stockholm on Wednesday upon the upcoming World Water Day.

According to the nominating committee, Professor Allan pioneered the development of key concepts in the understanding and communication of water issues and how they are linked to agriculture, climate change, economics and politics.

Professor John Anthony Allan

In 1993, Professor Allan strikingly demonstrated this by introducing the "virtual water" concept, which measures how water is embedded in the production and trade of food and consumer products. Behind that morning cup of coffee are 140 liters of water used to grow, produce, package and ship the beans. That is roughly the same amount of water used by an average person daily in England for drinking and household needs. The ubiquitous hamburger needs an estimated 2,400 liters of water. Per capita, Americans consume around 6,800 liters of virtual water every day, over triple that of a Chinese person.

Virtual water has major impacts on global trade policy and research, especially in water-scarce regions, and has redefined discourse in water policy and management. By explaining how and why nations such as the US, Argentina and Brazil 'export' billions of liters of water each year while others like Japan, Egypt and Italy 'import' billions, the virtual water concept has opened the door to more productive water use. National, regional and global water and food security, for example, can be enhanced when water intensive commodities are traded from places where they are economically viable to produce to places where they are not. While studying water scarcity in the Middle East, Professor Allan developed the theory of using virtual water import, via food, as an alternative water "source" to reduce pressure on the scarcely available domestic water resources there and in other water-short regions.

In its Citation, the international Nominating Committee wrote:

Professor Allan is awarded for the Stockholm Water Prize for his unique, pioneering and long lasting work in education and raising the awareness internationally of interdisciplinary relationships between agricultural production, water use, economies and political processes. The introduction of new important concepts like "virtual water", the use of the "problemshed" concept to emphasize that the most serious water sector problems are remedied outside the water sector, that energy is the big issue and above all that understanding the political landscape is the most important factor in the water science/policy nexus has created both innovative new research and actions from both individuals, large organizations and NGOs. The improved understanding of trade and water management issues on local, regional and global scales are of the highest relevance for the successful and sustainable use of water resources.
As a scientist, educator and advisor, Professor Allan has built essential knowledge and communication tools for sustainable and efficient water resource management and policy. His research deploys a wide range of environmental, economic, social and political theory to give insights on global water resources and the extent to which they can be made sufficient to meet the needs of future populations. Because of his work, policy makers, scientists, water professionals and the general public have greater awareness of the role of water in the production of different types of products and its impact on global trade and economy.

He remains a leading voice for sustainable water development and expert advisor on balancing population growth and increasing food demand in developing countries.

The Stockholm Water Prize Laureate receives USD 150,000 along with a glass sculpture, and will be presented on August 21 in the Stockholm City Hall during the World Water Week. H.M. King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden is the Patron of the Stockholm Water Prize.

By Xufei Chen, People's Daily Online correspondent

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