The Implications of the “Virtual Water Trade” and Virtual Environmental Degradation Trade for the São Francisco River Basin in Brazil


  • Lucigleide Nery Nascimento University of New Hampshire
  • Mimi Larsen Becker University of New Hampshire



Food production has an enormous impact on natural systems in both hydrological and ecological ways. In 2000, agriculture accounted for 67% of the total freshwater withdrawal in the world (UNEP, 2002). For the period of 1998-2002, that figure was 62% for Brazil (FAO, 2005). Water used in the production process of an agricultural or industrial good is ‘virtual water’ contained in the product. The ‘virtual water’ flow between nations is usually accompanied by a virtual environmental degradation current. Nations are exchanging surface and groundwater depletion, water pollution, soil erosion, and other negative externalities, which result from crop production. Such commerce involves trade-offs and unaccounted and unpaid environmental costs. Brazil has historically played the role of exporter of primary products, and consequently exports ‘virtual water’ to world food markets. The exportation of agricultural products causes a net transference of freshwater resources among regions and nations. I employ Hoekstra and Hung (2002)’s method to estimate the virtual water exported by the Rio São Francisco (SF) River Basin through grapes and mangos. What are the implications for semi-arid regions such as the Brazilian Northeast, which have chronically suffered from water shortage? What are other environmental consequences? This research analyzes the hydrological and ecological implications for local and regional systems resulting from selected primary sector activity taking into account virtual water transference and provides recommendations on more sustainable practices to reduce the loss of water and the environmental degradation of that river basin environment.

Biografia do Autor

Lucigleide Nery Nascimento, University of New Hampshire

PhD Candidate at University of New Hampshire, Department of Natural Resources, and an International Doctoral Fellow for the 2006-2007 year of American Association of University Women (AAUW) Educational Foundation. A Dissertation Year Fellowship from the University of New Hampshire – Graduate School currently funds the researcher.

Mimi Larsen Becker, University of New Hampshire

Associate Professor at University of New Hampshire and Chair of the Department of Natural Resources




Como Citar

NASCIMENTO, L. N.; BECKER, M. L. The Implications of the “Virtual Water Trade” and Virtual Environmental Degradation Trade for the São Francisco River Basin in Brazil. Revista Ciências Administrativas, [S. l.], v. 14, n. 2, 2009. DOI: 10.5020/2318-0722.14.2.%p. Disponível em: Acesso em: 5 out. 2022.