How Does Virtual Water Flow in Palestine? A Political Ecology Analysis

María J. Beltrán, Giorgos Kallis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


© 2017 Elsevier B.V. There is an exhaustive literature on Israel, Palestine and water, which has documented how the asymmetric power of Israel in the Oslo negotiations ensured its control of land and water over Palestine. Less attention however has been paid on the interface of water, trade and agriculture, and the ways in which controlling trade, Israel controlled the virtual flows of water too. The concept of virtual water makes the water-agriculture-trade relationship visible, shedding light on agricultural trade flows in terms of water. Applying a political ecology approach, this paper shows how socio-ecological conditions are sustained by and organised through both social and metabolic-ecological processes. A biophysical analysis - the agricultural flows of virtual water from and to Palestine in the Post-Oslo period - is combined with the examination of the power relations that governed these flows. The analysis reveals that virtual water flows are not static but instead evolve within the (geo)political-economic context in which they are embedded, bringing to light Israel's control over the flow of Palestinian agricultural virtual water. We argue that a political ecology approach to virtual water offers a theoretical basis to move beyond the currently techno-managerial emphasis in the virtual water literature, illuminating the link between the control of virtual flows and the consolidation of political and economic power.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17-26
JournalEcological Economics
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2018


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