Increasing water scarcity combined with an increasing demand for food and water for irrigation call for a careful revision of water use in agriculture. Currently, less than 60% of all the water used for irrigation is effectively used by crops. Based on the new version of the GTAP-W model we analyze the effect of potential water savings and the welfare implications of improvements in irrigation efficiency worldwide. The results show that a water policy directed to improve irrigation efficiency led to global and regional water savings, but it is not beneficial for all regions. The final effect on regional welfare will depend on the interaction of several different causes. For instance, higher irrigation efficiency changes opportunity costs and reverses comparative advantages, modifying regional trade patterns and welfare. For water-stressed regions the effects on welfare are mostly positive. For nonwater scarce regions the results are more mixed and mostly negative. The results show that exports of virtual water are not exclusive of water abundant regions. © 2010 International Association of Agricultural Economists.