Water security


Mesfin Mekonnen

Arjen Hoekstra


University of Twente




July 2006 – July 2008


Some 120 ministers of water attending the Second World Water Forum held at The Hague in March 2000 adopted a declaration aimed at achieving world water security. The declaration noted the main challenges of this new century as: meeting basic needs (access to safe and sufficient water), securing the food supply, protecting ecosystems, sharing water resources (promote cooperation and develop synergies between different uses of water at all levels), managing risks (provide security from water-related hazards), valuing water and governing water wisely (ensure good governance).

Recent studies revealed that local water shortages are linked with global production and consumption patterns. International and regional trade of products brings along flows of water in its virtual form. Roughly 16% of the global water use is not for domestic consumption but for export (source: www.waterfootprint.org). Thus water security at any level needs to be analysed considering the existing and future trade of products. Existing studies on virtual water fluxes and quantification of national water footprints are mostly global in nature and not sufficient to help formulating water policies related to water problems locally. For better understanding of the impact of consumption on water resources, it is necessary to analyse the water footprint of a local community based on the nature of water used and its impact in the production sites.

Not only is freshwater gradually becoming a global resource (demand and supply must match at the global rather than at the river basin level); equitable and sustainable water use is turning into a global issue as well. Global arrangements based on concepts such as a global water pricing protocol, water labelling, minimum water rights and a water footprint permit system are necessary to promote water use efficiency and at the same time ensure sustainable water use and encourage the equitable sharing of the limited water resources.


The research focuses on identifying and analysing strategies for water security at different scales, aiming at a balanced contribution to sustainability, efficiency and equity in water resources use. A number of country and product studies will be carried out based on the analysis of historic trends and future scenarios. With the use of GIS techniques and recent trade figures, the blue and green water components (surface/groundwater use and use of effective rainfall respectively) of virtual water fluxes will be quantified. As a result of this spatial analysis it will produce better estimates of water footprints as the crop water use gets estimated based on the local climate. On the basis of the refined estimates, the research aims to analyse the local policy implications of increasing global trade on water resources.


Results are published on the water footprint website:



Hoekstra, A.Y. (2006) ‘The global dimension of water governance: Nine reasons for global arrangements in order to cope with local water problems’ Value of Water Research Report Series No.20, UNESCO-IHE, Delft, the Netherlands.