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Environ Sci Technol. 2014 Jul 15;48(14):7704-13. doi: 10.1021/es500502q. Epub 2014 Jun 23.

Virtual scarce water in China.

Author information

1
Department of Geographical Sciences, University of Maryland , College Park, Maryland 20742, United States.

Abstract

Water footprints and virtual water flows have been promoted as important indicators to characterize human-induced water consumption. However, environmental impacts associated with water consumption are largely neglected in these analyses. Incorporating water scarcity into water consumption allows better understanding of what is causing water scarcity and which regions are suffering from it. In this study, we incorporate water scarcity and ecosystem impacts into multiregional input-output analysis to assess virtual water flows and associated impacts among 30 provinces in China. China, in particular its water-scarce regions, are facing a serious water crisis driven by rapid economic growth. Our findings show that inter-regional flows of virtual water reveal additional insights when water scarcity is taken into account. Consumption in highly developed coastal provinces is largely relying on water resources in the water-scarce northern provinces, such as Xinjiang, Hebei, and Inner Mongolia, thus significantly contributing to the water scarcity in these regions. In addition, many highly developed but water scarce regions, such as Shanghai, Beijing, and Tianjin, are already large importers of net virtual water at the expense of water resource depletion in other water scarce provinces. Thus, increasingly importing water-intensive goods from other water-scarce regions may just shift the pressure to other regions, but the overall water problems may still remain. Using the water footprint as a policy tool to alleviate water shortage may only work when water scarcity is taken into account and virtual water flows from water-poor regions are identified.

PMID:
24922282
DOI:
10.1021/es500502q
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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