Virtual water and water footprint have received increasing attention. However, no published research has conducted a quantitative and objective review of this field from the perspective of bibliometrics. Therefore, based on the Web of Science Core Collection, this study employs CiteSpace to quantitatively analyze and visualize information about countries, institutions, and authors that have conducted virtual water and water footprint research over the past two decades. As of July 2020, there were 1592 publications on virtual water and water footprint, showing an increasing trend overall. The annual average number of publications was only 7.4 in 1998–2008, while it was 126.5 in 2009–2019. Among them, up to 618 publications in the field of environmental science, accounting for 46%. China was the most productive country with a total of 344 articles, but the Netherlands had the strongest influence with a betweenness centrality of 0.33, indicating its leading position. It is essential to strengthen cooperation between developed (water-rich) and developing (water-poor) countries and to incorporate virtual water into social water cycle research. This study is expected to provide a new perspective for investigating the research frontiers and hot spots of virtual water and water footprint research.
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