Globally water is becoming an increasing scarce resource. According to the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (2006), less than 3% of the world’s water is fresh, 2.5% of that amount is frozen with only 0.5 % fresh water is available from aquifers, rainfall, lakes, reservoirs and rivers. Virtual water has been championed by J Anthony Allan of the School of Oriental and African Studies (1994), as the chief means by which water scarce countries can alleviate water stress through importing water intensive products and commodities from water rich countries. International trade directly links the wealth and resources of countries providing critical channels through which virtual water can be transferred from producer to consumer countries.
This study introduces a new concept of avoided water in order to attempt to assess whether avoided water is a different manifestation of virtual water or if there is a net difference which could be revealing. The concept of avoided water is analogous to the concept of avoided burden in life cycle analysis and was coined by R A Fenner, Centre for Sustainable Development at the University of Cambridge (2013). Avoided water is water that has not been used for productive nd consumptive purposes which would otherwise be needed to produce the amount of goods mported under local conditions by the consumer. This is calculated at the consumer end of the upply chain, rather than the producer end in the case of virtual water.