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Globalization of Water

Water Resource Development and Management

  1. A. Y. Hoekstra

Published Online: 15 JUL 2005

DOI: 10.1002/047147844X.wr51

Water Encyclopedia

Water Encyclopedia

How to Cite

Hoekstra, A. Y. 2005. Globalization of Water. Water Encyclopedia. 2:536–541.

Author Information

  1. UNESCO–IHE Institute for Water Education, Delft, The Netherlands

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 JUL 2005


People in Japan can affect the hydrological system in the United States. People in Europe can affect regional water systems in Thailand or Brazil. There are basically two mechanisms that make global connections between seemingly local water systems. First, the climate system connects different places on earth, because evaporation in one place results in precipitation in another place. The climate system is inherently global: local emissions of greenhouse gases contribute to a changing global climate, thus affecting temperature, evaporation, and precipitation patterns elsewhere. In this way, human activities in the economic centers of the world affect base and peak flows in rivers throughout the world. There is, however, a second mechanism through which people can affect water systems in other parts of the world. A European consumer of Thai rice raises rice demand in Thailand and subsequently the use of water for rice irrigation in Thailand. Globally, roughly one-fifth of the water used in agriculture is applied in areas used for producing export commodities. This fraction is increasing in line with the increase of global trade. Scientists have known for several decades that human activities within a river basin strongly impact on the water flows and water quality in such a river basin. It is more recent that scientists have started to realize that local water problems are often, in their roots, problems that cannot be solved locally or regionally, because the driving forces lay outside the region. The gradual disappearance of the Aral Lake in Uzbekistan–Kazakhstan, for instance, is directly linked to the global demand for cotton.


  • global water resources “virtual water”