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Environ Sci Technol. 2013 Dec 17;47(24):14459-67. doi: 10.1021/es402556x. Epub 2013 Nov 22.

Life cycle water use of energy production and its environmental impacts in China.

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Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University , 1350 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138, United States.


The energy sector is a major user of fresh water resources in China. We investigate the life cycle water withdrawals, consumptive water use, and wastewater discharge of China's energy sectors and their water-consumption-related environmental impacts, using a mixed-unit multiregional input-output (MRIO) model and life cycle impact assessment method (LCIA) based on the Eco-indicator 99 framework. Energy production is responsible for 61.4 billion m(3) water withdrawals, 10.8 billion m(3) water consumption, and 5.0 billion m(3) wastewater discharges in China, which are equivalent to 12.3%, 4.1% and 8.3% of the national totals, respectively. The most important feature of the energy-water nexus in China is the significantly uneven spatial distribution of consumptive water use and its corresponding environmental impacts caused by the geological discrepancy among fossil fuel resources, fresh water resources, and energy demand. More than half of energy-related water withdrawals occur in the east and south coastal regions. However, the arid north and northwest regions have much larger water consumption than the water abundant south region, and bear almost all environmental damages caused by consumptive water use.

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