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Sustainability of water resources for agriculture considering grain production, trade and consumption in China from 2004 to 2013

Jiang, Shan, Wang, Jianhua, Zhao, Yong, Shang, Yizi, Gao, Xuerui, Li, Haihong, Wang, Qingming, Zhu, Yongnan
Journal of cleaner production 2017 v.149 pp. 1210-1218
corn, crop production, crops, dietary restriction, exports, food production, imports, irrigation water, issues and policy, rice, virtual water, water flow, water management, water shortages, watersheds, wheat, China, Yangtze River
China is a country with a serious water shortage. Irrigation water accounts more than 60% of total water use. With the nation’s population forecasted to peak approximately 2030, the production of food for additional people will require more water resources, which exacerbates water shortages. North China is a typical case for studying water-food nexus because water shortage has become a primary factor in restricting food production. From the perspective of virtual water, the study calculates the changing trend of the virtual water (VW) flow related to grain transfer in China, for which three primary crops of China, including rice, wheat and maize, are considered. The results demonstrate the impact of changing the spatial patterns of grain production on water resource utilization is large, and water resources are redistributed related to grain trade. Northern China imports water-intensive products from southern China and exports water-extensive products, and the VW flow from North to South from 2004 to 2013 was approximately 42.6 billion m³ per year, about 10.2 billion m³ irrigation water was transferred per year which accounts for about 10% of the water consumption for crop production in the North. Although the South–North Water Diversion Project, a mega-engineering scheme constructed from the Yangtze River Basin to the Huang-Huai-Hai River Basins, alleviates water pressure on the North to a certain extent, it is insufficient for exporting to provinces, and water resources for meeting grain production in the North is problematic. Based on the results, this paper suggests that virtual water flow among provinces should be linked to water resource management. The next step in water management should focus on water demand management, rather than increasing crop trade from the North to the South, which is governed by governmental policies and economy.