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Unsustainable groundwater use for global food production and related international trade

  • Carole Dalin (a1), Makoto Taniguchi (a2) and Timothy R. Green (a3)

Non-technical summary

Most of the water humans consume is for agriculture. Rapidly increasing water demand has led to overexploitation of water resources in many important food-producing regions. In particular, growing groundwater-based irrigation causes potentially damaging depletion. Food systems are increasingly globalized, leading to large export-oriented production. Much research has focused on quantifying the amount of water resources embedded in traded products, but less attention has been given to the role of groundwater use and the related sustainability of agriculture globally. We assess current knowledge of virtual water trade in light of groundwater use and sustainability and highlight remaining challenges in this field.

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This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (, which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Corresponding author

Author for correspondence: Carole Dalin, E-mail:


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