Great Lakes Virtual Water Economy


Virtual Water Accounting is a method of assessing the true impact of water extraction on local water resources and ecosystem services. The approach provides a framework to account for the “Virtual Water”; water that is embedded in products during the production of goods for export (primarily through evaporative consumption) and is lost to the watershed: in this case, the Great Lakes Basin. This project assesses water uses in the US Great Lakes region, the aquatic ecosystem impacts of those water uses, the virtual water trade in water-derived goods and services, and the water productivity of Great Lakes industries. We find that although water uses in the Great Lakes do not accumulate to impact Great Lakes water balances, there are localized water stresses in many parts of the Great Lakes region, and these are usually located in and around irrigated agricultural operations and cities. Despite a world-beating competitive advantage in clean freshwater abundance, this region is a net virtual water importer and is not fully exploiting this comparative advantage.

Links to Resources

Great Lakes Virtual Water Accounting
Great Lakes Blue Accounting Report
Great Lakes Blue Accounting



Sponsors and Funding

Great Lakes Protection Fund #946