Point of Departure
With the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the international community has set targets for sustainable development within a UN frame. They have a direct (e.g. SDG 6.12) or indirect (e.g. SDG 2.15) reference to water but are not yet operationalized in terms of management and control.
A growing world population lives with substantially constant and thus increasingly scarce water resources, which are regionally available to very different degrees. 92-99% of the global use of green and blue water accounts for agriculture. Basically, global trade can mitigate the regional environmental impacts of the overuse of scarce water resources by promoting water-efficient and water-sustainable food production.
Unfortunately, as soon as a commodity enters the global trading system, the virtual water that is implicitly traded with it loses all the information about the scarcity, efficiency, and sustainability with which it has been used for production at the source of the commodity. There is a lack of a global system that is able to quantify the regional and local efficiency and sustainability of water resources use for food production and to imprint this information on the virtual water streams on their trading routes. This is why international food trade currently is not capable of taking into account the local scarcity and (in-)efficiency with which water is used to produce agricultural commodities. This is also the main underlying reason why water resources are currently used in large parts of the Globe in a manner that is neither sustainable nor efficient.