This hidden water export business is laying the fuse for a hydrological time-bomb. Mexico's virtual-water exports are emptying its largest body of water, Lake Chapala, which is the main source of water for its second city, Guadalajara. But the biggest net exporter of virtual water the US. It exports around a third of all the water it takes out of the natural environment. Much of that is in grains, either directly or via meat. The US is emptying critical underground water reserves, such as those beneath the High Plains, to grow grain for export. It also exports an amazing 100 cubic kilometres of virtual water in beef. Once upon a time, it was the cattle drives that made the Rio Grande famous in scores of westerns. One day soon, the movie house may be the only place you can find the river at all
This is an edited extract from When Rivers Run Dry, by Fred Pearce, published by Beacon Press.
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