Disenchantment with the virtual water concept is summarized in Merrett and Iyer (see Virtual water: Some reservations). One concern is with the characterization of virtual water, with Merrett noting that the “forging” of appropriate terminology is ongoing, and that at this stage, the appropriate language is “still in the furnace.” Beyond the issue of terminology, these authors argue against the idea that virtual water can somehow be viewed as being traded.
Disenchantment also arises when virtual water is promoted as a framework for making water allocation decisions. Critics point out that virtual water measures cannot serve as an indicator of environmental harm or quantify the marginal value of water across time or space – at least without a good deal of additional information. A third general reason for disenchantment is that empirical studies show that relative water endowments, by country, are poor predictors of trade in water intensive goods.