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Home The River Basin People and the River Governance Resource Management
Resource Management
Water Demand
Water Infrastructure
The Value of Water
 Economic Value
 Environmental Costs
 Social Benefits and Costs
 Virtual Water
In the SADC Region
 In Angola and Namibia
Resource Monitoring
Research & Development



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Virtual Water in the SADC Region  

In the SADC region 5 km³ of water was transferred between countries through transfer schemes in 2002, and an estimated 8 km³ as virtual water. This equates to the transfer of 1 000 tonnes of water for every tonne of grain (Earle and Turton 2003). In the SADC region, countries categorised as least developed nations (GDPs of US$300 per person or less), have large supplies of internally generated water. Conversely, countries with a per capita GDP of US$2 500 or more are reliant on external water sources.

Potential breadbaskets (large grain producing countries or regions) of SADC include Angola, Mozambique, the DR Congo and Zambia. All of these countries have an abundance of water and suitably productive soil, but require economic investments from economically more diverse states in order to develop required infrastructure. States that tend to be more water insecure but economically well diversified, include South Africa, Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe. These countries import water in the region (through transfers and through virtual water trade). A third group, countries that have either insufficient water or poor soil or terrain, are known as "impacted states"—Malawi, Lesotho, Swaziland and Tanzania (Earle and Turton 2003).

The concept of virtual water trade and water footprints of SADC countries is further explored in the Virtual Water interactive component on the right side of this page.

Quantifying Virtual Water Transfer

Quantifying virtual water transfer between countries can put their water needs and availability into context. Even water-rich countries depend on food imports and food aid. Successful intra-regional trade in virtual water will require rehabilitation of the agricultural sector and associated infrastructure, and capacity development such as training in marketing of surpluses or preparing for the next cropping season.

A thorough understanding of the requirements and possible impacts (e.g. lack of food self-sufficiency, lack of foreign currency to purchase food on international markets, or lack of infrastructure and technology for the successful export of agricultural produce), is essential for the successful implementation of virtual water trade. Also the potential adverse consequences of replacing local agricultural production with imports need to be assessed thoroughly: competing products entering local markets, increasing vulnerability to world market prices, rural unemployment, and changing diets (Hoekstra and Hung 2002).

The following pages look at virtual water in the Kunene River basin countries Angola and Namibia. The focus here is on virtual water in agriculture as:

  • Trade statistics on agricultural commodities are easy to retrieve;
  • Agriculture consumes most of the water in both countries; and
  • Water footprint (water use in producing a certain good) data exist for a number of agricultural goods.




Explore the sub-basins of the Kunene River

Video Interviews about the integrated and transboundary management of the Kunene River basin

View information on the dams and weirs of the Kunene Basin

Examine the virtual water trade and water footprints of SADC countries

Explore how hydroelectric dams work