The IIT Guwahati team recommends a virtual water analysis for better water management policy in India

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The results of the study have been published in the Journal of Cleaner Production, Journal of Water Resources Research, and Journal of Water (File Photo: IE)

Researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology, Guwahati, have used virtual water analysis to pave the way for better water management policies in India.

According to IIT Guwahati Professor Anamika Barua, who led the study, Virtual Water (VW) is the water involved in the production and trading of food and non-food raw materials and services. It is this “invisible” water that has been consumed throughout the life cycle of the product or service.

The results of the study, which helps bridge the knowledge governance gap to alleviate water scarcity by assessing VW rivers, have been published in the Journal of Cleaner Production, Journal of Water Resources Research and Journal of Water.

The study showed that in countries with chronic water scarcity, planning and implementing sustainable agriculture are critical to water and food security.

It was also found that the pressure on freshwater resources in water-parched states can be reduced by diversifying production areas through the use of VW flow analysis for the production of agroclimatically suitable food crops.

“VW’s concept was first developed in the 1990s to understand how countries with water scarcity could provide their populations with essential goods such as water-intensive products such as food, clothing and shelter that can define their trade characteristics. For example, a country with limited water resources would rather import water-intensive cotton than use its precious water for cultivation, ”Barua said.

“The assessment of virtual water flows aims to induce sustainable use that can lead to water security. Given the ongoing challenge of water scarcity in India and the complexity of water management in the country, integrating scientific knowledge into strategies to improve sustainability remains a challenge due to the slow exchange between science and politics, ”she said.

She claimed that the study bridges this science policy loophole related to water scarcity by first analyzing the water flows hidden in agricultural products that are transported between the different states of India.

“This is then linked to the regional water scarcity situation and some existing elements of water policy to understand the knowledge gaps and governance to mitigate water scarcity in the country,” said the professor.
“The team found that some VW rivers between states are unsustainable as water flows through agricultural products from highly arid states in the north to other highly arid states in the west and south. Such unsustainable flows are driven by larger populations and farmland. In contrast, sustainable rivers – from zones / states with low to high water scarcity – can help address water scarcity, ”she said.

Barua suggested that deeper political engagement for the sustainable future of developing and emerging countries faced with the challenges of water scarcity and fragmented environmental management systems would be particularly relevant.

“The VW flow analysis can help to design an evidence-based water policy and to establish the connection between the hydrological-economic-institutional aspect of water scarcity.
“The study is also related to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 12 to ensure sustainable production patterns and to SDG 6, which aims to increase water use efficiency in all sectors to reduce the number of people who will be affected by 2030 suffer from water scarcity significantly. ”She added.

Team members included IIT Guwahati research scientist Mimika Mukherjee, Rosa Duarte from the University of Zaragoza in Spain and Suparana Katyaini from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Hyderabad.

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