The Bartlett Development Planning Unit


DPU Working Paper - No. 161

Water Imperialism: Politicising virtual water through entropy theory


29 December 2013

Author: Nausica Castanas

Publication Date: December 2013

ISSN: 1474-3280

This working paper explores the concept of virtual water within a framework of imperialism, political ecology and systems theory. The existing literature on virtual water has been largely optimistic, characterised by the conviction that an understanding of the rationale behind this concept can resolve water insecurity through trade. This paper challenges this position by applying the analysis to a water-rich country, within a core-periphery dichotomy. The thesis supported is that such optimism is unfounded, demonstrating a misapprehension of the imperialistic tendencies of the core in the world economy. To illustrate this proposition, the concept is applied to the trade of asparagus—a non-essential good—between the United Kingdom and the water-stressed Ica Valley in Peru.


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