An article on "virtual water" in NewScientist Magazine talks about Professor Rodriguez-Iturbe's research. The piece titled "African land grab could lead to future water conflicts" shows how China, India and Saudi Arabia are trying to secure their food supply by leasing water-rich African land. Doing so is cheaper and easier than using water resources back home. But it's a plan that can backfire.
A new study into how this virtual water moves around the world offers an explanation for the leasing strategy. Ignacio Rodriguez-Iturbe of Princeton University and Samir Suweis of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne have built the first mathematical model of the global virtual water trade network, using the UN Food and Agricultural Organization's data on trade in barley, corn, rice, soya beans, wheat, beef, pork, and poultry in 2000. They combined this with a fine-grained hydrological model.
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