Transfer of virtual water embodied in food: A new perspective
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Food and water are inextricably linked. With the increase of water consumption in irrigation and food growth, water shortage has become an urgent issue. Irrational cross-regional transfer of water embodied in food exacerbates water scarcity and restrict China's sustainable development. Given that, a Virtual Water-Food Nexus Model is developed to quantify the inter-provincial transfer of water embodied in food and to identify the complicated interactions between different provinces. In detail, Environmental Input-Output Analysis is applied to quantitatively estimate the inter-provincial water transfer embodied in food trades. Based on the network constructed by interrelated nature of nexus, the mutual interactions, control situation, and the dominant and weak pathways are examined through the combination of Ecological Network Analysis and Principal Component Analysis. Two new indictors water consumption intensity and water supply capacity are first performed to measure the role of each province from the supply and consume side respectively. It is revealed that interregional food transactions failed to realize water resources dispatching management. Many water-deficient regions suffered from massive virtual water losses through food exports, but water-rich areas still import large quantities of food containing virtual water. Results show that exploitation and competition dominate the ecological relationships between provinces. Agricultural GDP ratio is the indicator which most affect water consumption intensity and water supply capacity. Network-based research contributes more insights into the recognition of water management responsibilities across provinces and municipalities. These findings will provide a scientific support to adjust unreasonable allocation of water resources in China in an attempt to addressing the contradiction between food demand and water shortages.
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