Challenge of Water Sources in Urbanizing China: an Analysis of Agricultural Water Footprint
Xinchun Cao1,2, Pute Wu1,2,3, Yubao Wang1,2, Xining Zhao2,3
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1College of Water Resources and Architectural Engineering, Northwest A&F University, China
2Institute of Water-Saving Agriculture in Arid regions of China, Northwest A&F University, China
3National Engineering Research Center for Water-Saving Irrigation at Yangling, China
Pol. J. Environ. Stud. 2015;24(1):9–18
It is widely recognized that China is facing the dual challenge of food scarcity and water shortage. A large amount of water is to be demanded for the country’s huge population and rapid economic growth. The agricultural water footprint (AWF) proposes a new approach to indicate the interaction between food consumption and water utilization. This paper aims to quantify a long-time series of China’s AWF, map its variation trend, and assess its potential influence. The findings show that the total agricultural water footprint (TAWF) has increased from 7,593 km3 in 1990 to 10,929 km3 in 2011 due to increases in population and in per capita agricultural water footprint (CAWF). Over the past few years, China has also held an increasing external AWF volume, which climbed up to nearly 10% of the TAWF respectively in 2009, 2010, and 2011. The animal WF proportion of a single urban resident was much higher than that of a rural one because of their different consumption patterns, but neither of their proportions varied significantly over the same period of time. China’s CAWF increased over time and held a multi-year average value of 741 m3·cap-1·y-1. The results suggest that CAWF stayed linear positively related to the urban population proportion (UPP) during the study period and that urbanization proves to be the dominant driving force to the water requirement for food consumption augmentation. Considering the irresistible economic growth and urbanization, China should take active measures to cope with troubles potentially brought by the increase in AWF and water dependency degree (WDD). Suggestions with regard to how to guarantee China’s food and water resource security are raised in this paper.