Embodied agricultural water use in China from 1997 to 2010

Shan Guo, Qiping Shen, Yi Peng

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


Water is an important element in agricultural production. The recent population growth, rapid urbanization, and fast industrialization present increasing challenges for China's agricultural water use. Embodied water has been promoted as a substantial indicator for the assessment of water consumption induced by human activities. However, few studies have investigated the dynamic change in embodied agricultural water use by time-series data. The findings of such studies may facilitate the development of comprehensive sustainable water-usage strategies. Thus, this study quantifies the embodied agricultural water trade, as well as production- and consumption-based agricultural water footprints in China by using an input-output model during 1997-2010. According to the results, China's average embodied agricultural water intensity shows a declining trend from 43.33 m3/thousand Yuan in 1997 to 32.66 m3/ thousand Yuan in 2010. The average embodied agricultural water intensity of the primary industry is larger than those of the secondary and tertiary industries. China has always been a net exporter of agricultural water. At the industrial level, the primary industry is a net importer because of the increasing food demand in China, the secondary industry has consistently been a net exporter, and the tertiary industry has maintained a trade balance. The production- and consumption-based embodied agricultural water uses demonstrate similar changing trends: both decrease from 1997 to 2007 and then significantly increase in 2010. The embodied agricultural water consumed by the primary industry shows a downward trend, whereas those consumed by the secondary and tertiary industries demonstrate an opposite trend. Therefore, in addition to the improvement of agricultural water efficiency, adjustments in consumption and trade structure are highly instrumental to the conservation of local agricultural water resources.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3176-3184
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Cleaner Production
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2016


  • Agricultural water use
  • China
  • Input-output analysis
  • International trade
  • Virtual water flow

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Strategy and Management
  • Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering


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