Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

China's hidden water footprint

Date:
July 7, 2014
Source:
International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis
Summary:
China's richest provinces have an outsized environmental impact on the country's water-scarce regions, according to new research. Many developed regions in China are not only drawing from their own water resources but also contributing to water depletion in other water-scarce regions of the country through imports of food and other water-intensive goods, researchers report.

This map shows the flows of "virtual scarce water" from the Xinjiang province to other provinces in China.
Credit: Reprinted with permission from: Feng, Kuishuang, Klaus Hubacek, Stephan Pfister, Yang Yu, Laixiang Sun. 2014. “Virtual Scarce Water in China.” Environmental Science and Technology, http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/es500502q. Copyright 2014 American Chemical Society.

Many developed regions in China are not only drawing from their own water resources but also contributing to water depletion in other water-scarce regions of the country through imports of food and other water-intensive goods, according to the new study published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology. This has environmental impacts and potential future impacts on water availability for the entire country.

The new study used the concept of "virtual water," an economic concept used to track water flows through trade, to track how water is traded through agricultural products and other goods that require water to produce. But while previous studies of water flows had treated all water equally, the new study accounts for water scarcity.

"When goods and services are exchanged, so is virtual water," explains IIASA and University of Maryland researcher Laixiang Sun, a study co-author. "For example, it takes about 1,600 cubic meters of actual water to produce one metric ton of wheat. When a country or region imports a ton of wheat instead of producing it domestically, it saves most of that."

In China, water resources are distributed unevenly, with ample water in the wealthier southern region, and scarce water in most northern provinces. The study shows that trade between these water-scarce regions tends to draw more sharply on water resources in the less developed, poorer regions. For example, the provinces of Shanghai, Shandong, Beijing, and Tianjin import large amounts of virtual water at the expense of less-developed provinces such as Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia, and Hebei.

"Importing water-intensive goods from one water-scarce region to another doesn't solve the problem of water scarcity -- it just shifts the pressure to other regions," says co-author Klaus Hubacek, a researcher at the University of Maryland and an alumnus of the IIASA Young Scientists Summer Program.

The study also examined the impact of international exports on water resources, showing that production of international exports in China's top exporting regions also draws on water resources in water-scarce northern provinces.

Sun adds, "With the fast growth of China's economy, and increasing urbanization, this trend is likely to continue in the next few decades."

Recognizing the problem of water scarcity, China has launched a multi-billion dollar water transfer project to divert water from the South to the North. But the authors suggest that replacing imports from the North with goods produced in the South could be a more efficient solution to the problem.

The researchers say that their new study lays the groundwork for smarter water resource management. Says Sun, "This is the first study that incorporates water consumption, water scarcity, and ecosystem impacts into an analysis that conveys the pressures on water resources. Using virtual water as a policy tool only makes sense if you take water scarcity into account."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Kuishuang Feng, Klaus Hubacek, Stephan Pfister, Yang Yu, Laixiang Sun. Virtual Scarce Water in China. Environmental Science & Technology, 2014; 140623145009005 DOI: 10.1021/es500502q

Cite This Page:

International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis. "China's hidden water footprint." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 July 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140707103635.htm>.
International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis. (2014, July 7). China's hidden water footprint. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140707103635.htm
International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis. "China's hidden water footprint." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140707103635.htm (accessed July 23, 2014).

Share This




More Earth & Climate News

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

New Orleans Plans to Recycle Cigarette Butts

New Orleans Plans to Recycle Cigarette Butts

AP (July 21, 2014) New Orleans is the first U.S. city to participate in a large-scale recycling effort for cigarette butts. The city is rolling out dozens of containers for smokers to use when they discard their butts. (July 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Shark Sightings a Big Catch for Cape Tourism

Shark Sightings a Big Catch for Cape Tourism

AP (July 21, 2014) A rise in shark sightings along the shores of Chatham, Massachusetts is driving a surge of eager vacationers to the beach town looking to catch a glimpse of a great white. (July 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Spectacular Lightning Storm Hits London

Spectacular Lightning Storm Hits London

AFP (July 19, 2014) A spectaCular lightning storm struck the UK overnight Friday. Images of lightning strikes over the Shard and Tower Bridge in central London. Duration: 00:23 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
A Centuries' Old British Tradition Is Far from a Swan Song

A Centuries' Old British Tradition Is Far from a Swan Song

AFP (July 19, 2014) As if it weren't enough that the Queen is the Sovereign of the UK and 15 other Commonwealth realms, she is also the owner of all Britain's unmarked swans. Duration: 02:18 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins