Examining the water footprint concept in relation to sustainable water management, Libya

ALI, Allafi Omar (2019). Examining the water footprint concept in relation to sustainable water management, Libya. Doctoral, Sheffield Hallam University.

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Link to published version:: https://doi.org/10.7190/shu-thesis-00198


Despite widespread enthusiasm for the development and use of the water footprint concept, some concerns have been raised about the concept itself and its usefulness. A variety of methodologies have been developed for determining the water footprint of a country, each of which varies with respect to how individual countries deal with different forms of water use. Following an extensive review of the literature related to water footprints, this thesis focuses on critically examining the concept of the water footprint in the specific conditions and circumstances of Libya, an arid and water-scarce country. In addition, it explores how the water footprint concept can be applied to existing water resource management to meet the increasing water demand to attain food security and attempts a critical evaluation of the water footprint concept as a tool for water management policy makers in Libya. Two philosophical paradigms (positivism and interpretivism) were utilized to gather data related to the water management system in Libya. Data were collected through semi-structured interviews conducted with selected participants, questionnaires distributed to farmers, critical analysis of pertinent official documents, literature review and the researcher`s own non-participant observation. Direct field observation of agricultural practices in selected study areas in Libya was conducted based on the experience of the researcher and was used to augment the data collected by other methods and to gain an in-depth understanding of the effectiveness of current water policies. The water footprint was calculated according to national statistical information. As the agricultural sector is responsible for more than 85% of the total water use in the study area, Libya, this study focuses on agricultural water use. This research has identified a number of key issues in relation to current water and agriculture management practices and the potential use of the water footprint as a tool to develop water management. Although the current water management seems to be theoretically well drafted, it is not implemented and water polices require review, revision and reformulation. The national water footprint of Libya has been estimated and analysed for the period of 2001–2009. The internal water footprint (internal water use) in the agricultural sector was between 1.9-2.5 Gm3/year (a total of 19 G m3 over the study period), while the external water footprint (imported products) was between 6-12G m3/year of water in virtual form. As the internal water footprint represents only water used to produce products consumed by a country’s inhabitants and excludes water for exports, in countries which have negligible exports, such as Libya, the water footprint concept would not add value for water resource management because, in that case, internal water footprint would be as same as actual water withdrawal. Despite the potential value of the water footprint concept as a tool for water management, the authorities of a region or a country already know the amount of water consumed and required to be withdrawn from domestic water resources. Thus, this knowledge is already available to the decision-makers and little new information is contributed by the water footprint concept. Furthermore, the concept considers only the volume of water consumed and there is no mention of other inputs of crop production, such as the water used in the production of fertiliser and pesticides, nor does it take into account opportunity costs.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Thesis advisor - Heath, Mike
Additional Information: Director of studies/Supervisor - Mike Heath
Research Institute, Centre or Group - Does NOT include content added after October 2018: Sheffield Hallam Doctoral Theses
Identification Number: https://doi.org/10.7190/shu-thesis-00198
Depositing User: Louise Beirne
Date Deposited: 25 Jul 2019 14:04
Last Modified: 26 Apr 2021 13:33
URI: https://shura.shu.ac.uk/id/eprint/24909

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