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Impact-oriented water footprint assessment of wheat production in China

Zhai, Yijie, Shen, Xiaoxu, Quan, Taiyong, Ma, Xiaotian, Zhang, Ruirui, Ji, Changxing, Zhang, Tianzuo, Hong, Jinglan
The Science of the total environment 2019 v.689 pp. 90-98
arid zones, diesel fuel, disability-adjusted life year, ecosystems, environmental impact, factor analysis, fertilizers, fuel production, grain yield, human health, irrigation water, pollution, temporal variation, water footprint, water requirement, water resources, wheat, China
Water consumption and pollution in wheat production, which are worth paying attention in agricultural countries and arid regions, need to be assessed systematically and comprehensively. China, one of the largest wheat-producing country in the world, should be concerned about this issue. Thus, an impact-oriented water footprint assessment of wheat production in China was conducted based on the ISO 14046 standard to quantify water-related environmental impacts. We quantified the environmental impacts on human health and ecosystem quality categories of wheat production from 2009 to 2016 and evaluated the spatial variation of these categories in 2016. Results showed that the environmental impacts on human health and ecosystem quality categories in 2016 were 5.15 × 10−4 DALY/t and 37.17 PDF·m2·yr/t, respectively. Key factor analysis showed that the overall environmental impacts were primarily derived from fertilizer production, diesel production, and direct water consumption and emission. The dynamic analysis results revealed that the temporal variations in impacts were associated with water and fertilizer consumption. Areas with high potential impacts were mainly congregated in the North China Plain and Xinjiang Province due to their high wheat yields. Ecosystem quality was negatively correlated with wheat yield, and human health was positively correlated with crop water requirement. Therefore, on the basis of ensuring grain production, improving the utilization efficiency of irrigation water and reducing fertilizer and diesel consumption are the priorities for the management of agricultural water resources.