Projections of Virtual Water Trade Under Agricultural Policy Scenarios in China
Abstract:China's economic growth is expected to continue into the next decades, accompanied by a sustained urbanization and industrialization. The associated increase in demand for land, water resources and rich foods will deepen the challenge to sustainably feed the population and balance environmental and agricultural policies. In previous work, Inner Mongolia was identified as a target province for trade or agricultural policies aimed at water-use efficiency improvements, due to its large production relying on particularly significant irrigation water use. In addition, water scarcity issues may arises in the greater Beijing area, which represents the largest urban area of arid Northern China. Increasing residential and industrial water demand in this region may lead to fewer available water for irrigation.
For these reasons, it is important to estimate the impacts of specific policies aiming at reducing excessive water use for crop production in Inner Mongolia, as well as exploring ways to mitigate pressure on water resources in dry urban areas. In this study, we use socio-economic projections to assess the future state of China's virtual water trade (VWT) network. We then quantify the effects of agricultural policies on the national VWT system and on the efficiency of food trade in terms of water resources.
This study addresses the following questions: (1) How future socio-economic changes will affect China's food trade and associated water transfers? (2) To which extent localized reductions of irrigated area can decrease agricultural water use while maintaining national food security? (3) How would these policies affect China's domestic and international VWT network and induced water resources savings (losses)?