Investigation for Resolution
On August 13th, 2018, we visited United Nations University. We also interviewed Prof. Taikan Oki, who is an authority on hydrology.
United Nations University 5-53-70 Jingumae Shibuya-ku, Tokyo Japan 150-8925
Mr. Oki has been a professor, institute of Industrial Science, The University of Tokyo since 2006 and Senior Vice-Rector, United Nations University since 2016. He studies hydrology, especially global water balance and world water resources.
Q1:Thanks to economic power, Japan can compensate a lack of water by importing. How countries which are less economically competitive unlike Japan compensate it?
A1:There is no country which has neither water nor money. Water is essential for people to produce food to live. Therefore, when a place does not have both properly water and economic power to bring proper amount of water, a country will not be formed there.
Q2:Is it bad to import much virtual water?
A2:The problem with virtual water trade is whether the appropriate money for imports is paid or not. In producing food, we have an impact on environment by pumping up water from underground and reclaiming land to farm. But we also affect it when we produce food in Japan. What we have to do is to pay consideration to repair environmental pollution caused by producing food we import. However, nobody can check if the appropriate money is paid, under the circumstances.
It is not necessarily bad to import virtual water. The important thing is whether we pay to consideration to repair environmental pollution caused by producing food we import.
Water foot print (Let’s go to glossary!)
Measures the amount of water used to produce each of the goods and services we use.
Q3:In Europe, some goods shows the amount of water used consumed in a process we use based on Water footprint. Why are not there such efforts in Japan?
A3:There are mainly two reasons for it.
1. Consumers’ consciousness is low
Most consumers only pay attention to price, quantity, best-by date, expiration date and calorie when they buy food. Even if some information is written on the package, almost all consumers would not see it. So companies do not put information they do not need.
2. There is not a definite standard
At present, there is not definite international index about virtual water. Because showing it with an unclear index only causes confusion, displaying the amount of virtual water has not introduced well. The value of water depends on the place. The value of water in the place with a little water is higher than that in the place with plenty of water. So it is difficult to make international definite index.
The problems about virtual water cannot be solved only by efforts of societies and companies and it is also important to change minds of consumers’, ours.
Q4:Japan imports much virtual water by importing food. If Japan’s food self-sufficiency ratio increase, can we reduce the amount of virtual water?
A4:Even if we raise Japan’s food self-sufficiency ratio, we cannot feed ourselves completely. For instance, when we face a poor harvest or a disaster, the amount of crop will decrease and we will have to import a lack. So, making good partnership with other countries to import things which cannot be produce by themselves own each other as well as raising the food self-sufficiency ratio is important.
Virtual water is concerned with food production and trade. Therefore, taking not only it but also other sides, such as the economic conditions and a load to the environment, into consideration is important for our activity.
Q5:What is the best approach to the problem about virtual water now?
A5:In Spain, seawater is turned into pure water with desalination technology. However, only food which sells a high price, such as melons is produced with this technology. That is because reducing salinity concentration of seawater to use seawater for agriculture is too expensive. Food which can glow in the place seawater and fresh water mix each other and water-saving agriculture is also being developed.
We must have that geographic conditions depend on the place in large countries like China and America in our minds.
The lack of water is not only caused by natural conditions but also by economic conditions and infrastructure conditions (e.g. the lack of waterworks) .