Sustainable use of resources is critical, not only for people but for the whole planet. This is especially so for freshwater, which in many ways determines the food security and long-term development of nations. Here, we use virtual water trade to analyze the sustainability of water used by Pakistan in the international trade of 15 major agricultural commodities between 1990 and 2016 and in 2030. Most of the existing country-level studies on virtual water trade focused on net virtual water importers, which are usually water-scarce countries as well. This is the first study to concentrate on a water-stressed net virtual water-exporting country. Our results show that Pakistan has been trading large and ever-increasing volumes of virtual water through agricultural commodities. Despite the overall small net export of total virtual water per year, Pakistan has been a net-exporter of large quantities of blue (fresh) virtual water through its trade, even by fetching a lower value for each unit of blue water exported. Given Pakistan’s looming water scarcity, exporting large volumes of blue virtual water may constrain the country’s food security and long-term economic development. Improving water use efficiency for the current export commodities, for example, rice and exploring less water-intensive commodities, for example, fruits and vegetables, for export purposes can help Pakistan achieve sustainable water use in the future.
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