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Hydrology and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Discussion papers
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2019-461
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2019-461
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 28 Oct 2019

Submitted as: research article | 28 Oct 2019

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Hydrology and Earth System Sciences (HESS).

Changing global cropping patterns to minimize blue water scarcity in the world's hotspots

Hatem Chouchane1, Maarten S. Krol1, and Arjen Y. Hoekstra1,2 Hatem Chouchane et al.
  • 1Twente Water Centre, University of Twente, Enschede, The Netherlands
  • 2Institute of Water Policy, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore, Singapore

Abstract. Feeding a growing population with global natural resource constraints becomes an increasingly challenging task. Changing spatial cropping patterns and international crop trade could contribute to sustain crop production and mitigate water scarcity. Previous studies on water saving through international food trade focussed either on comparing water productivities among food-trading countries or on analysing food trade in relation to national water endowments. Here, we consider, for the first time, how both differences in water productivities and water endowments can be considered to analyse comparative advantages of countries for different types of crop production. A linear optimization algorithm is used to find modifications in global cropping patterns that reduce blue water scarcity in the world's hotspots, under the constraint of current global production per crop and current cropland areas. The optimization considers national water and land endowments as well as water and land productivity per country per crop. The results are used to assess national comparative advantages and disadvantages for different crops. When allowing a maximum expansion of harvested area per crop per country of 10 %, the blue water scarcity in the world's most water-scarce countries can be greatly reduced. In this case, we could achieve a reduction of the current blue water footprint of crop production in the world of 9 % and a decrease of global total harvested area of 4 %.

Hatem Chouchane et al.
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Short summary
Previous studies on water saving through international food trade focussed either on comparing water productivities or on analysing food trade in relation to national water endowments. Here, we consider, for the first time, both differences in water productivities and water endowments. The current research reveals that blue water scarcity can be reduced to sustainable levels by changing the global cropping pattern, while maintaining current levels of global production and reducing land use.
Previous studies on water saving through international food trade focussed either on comparing...
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