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FEATURE ARTICLE

Water News: Bad, Good and Virtual

Rational thinking about water may be key to ensuring a clean, plentiful supply

Vaclav Smil

Figure%201.%20Villagers%20in%20Kotri%20search%20for%20waterClick to Enlarge ImageWater quality and its impact on human health—above all due to waterborne diseases of children—have become perennial concerns. And with the shifts in precipitation and water availability that may accompany global warming, such concerns only further command our attention. The author advances the concept of "virtual water" (as coined by John Anthony Allan of the School of Oriental and African Studies of the University of London), which accounts for all the water required to grow or manufacture a product. In the U.S. alone, about 5,000 liters of water are needed to produce the typical citizen's 3,900 kilocalorie-per-day diet. Water use could thus be restrained by both the types and the amounts of food consumed.


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