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Optimal allocation of physical water resources integrated with virtual water trade in water scarce regions: A case study for Beijing, China

Ye, Quanliang, Li, Yi, Zhuo, La, Zhang, Wenlong, Xiong, Wei, Wang, Chao, Wang, Peifang
Water research 2018 v.129 pp. 264-276
agricultural industry, barley, beef, case studies, corn, crops, environmental impact, financial economics, groundwater, imports, models, pork, poultry, rice, supply balance, surface water, virtual water, wastewater treatment, water allocation, water flow, water supply, wheat, China
This study provides an innovative application of virtual water trade in the traditional allocation of physical water resources in water scarce regions. A multi-objective optimization model was developed to optimize the allocation of physical water and virtual water resources to different water users in Beijing, China, considering the trade-offs between economic benefit and environmental impacts of water consumption. Surface water, groundwater, transferred water and reclaimed water constituted the physical resource of water supply side, while virtual water flow associated with the trade of five major crops (barley, corn, rice, soy and wheat) and three livestock products (beef, pork and poultry) in agricultural sector (calculated by the trade quantities of products and their virtual water contents). Urban (daily activities and public facilities), industry, environment and agriculture (products growing) were considered in water demand side. As for the traditional allocation of physical water resources, the results showed that agriculture and urban were the two predominant water users (accounting 54% and 28%, respectively), while groundwater and surface water satisfied around 70% water demands of different users (accounting 36% and 34%, respectively). When considered the virtual water trade of eight agricultural products in water allocation procedure, the proportion of agricultural consumption decreased to 45% in total water demand, while the groundwater consumption decreased to 24% in total water supply. Virtual water trade overturned the traditional components of water supplied from different sources for agricultural consumption, and became the largest water source in Beijing. Additionally, it was also found that environmental demand took a similar percentage of water consumption in each water source. Reclaimed water was the main water source for industrial and environmental users. The results suggest that physical water resources would mainly satisfy the consumption of urban and environment, and the unbalance between water supply and demand could be filled by virtual water import in water scarce regions.