Virtual water creator scoops top award
An academic who pioneered the concept of 'virtual water' has been given a top international accolade.
Professor Tony Allan, from King’s College London, will be awarded the US$150,000 Stockholm Water Prize Laureate in a glittering ceremony in Stockholm in August.
The award recognises his 1993 breakthrough in demonstrating how large quantities of water are embedded in the production of foods and industrial products.
The research allowed others to calculate figures such as the amount of water used to produce a single hamburger – an estimated 2,400 litres including the water drunk by the cow and used to grow its food, and the water used in production, packaging and transportation.
Professor Allan told edie he first began looking into the concept when trying to establish why there had not been a recurrence of the early 1960s conflicts in the water-scarce Middle East, despite significant population increases.
He reasoned that the importation of food and other goods allowed states to indirectly import water from other countries.
The discovery has had major impacts on global trade and water policies and research and will continue to be important as the world tries to meet the demands of a growing population.
Professor Allan said: “We have still got to find water for another 2bn people but if you look back at what we have achieved in the last 50 years, it’s incredible.
“We have responded to a challenge far greater than climate change in my view.”
He said the award, which will be formally presented to him by King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden, was a great recognition of his work.
“My background is really an ethic of working hard, pedalling uphill, it often felt like,” he said.
“Now I feel as if I have come to the top and for a period, I can freewheel.”