Environmental Sustainability of Water Footprint in Mainland China

Elsevier, Geography and Sustainability, Volume 1, March 2020
Liu J., Zhao D., Mao G., Cui W., Chen H., Yang H.
Water footprint (WF) measures human appropriation of water resources for consumptive use of surface and ground water (blue WF) and soil water (green WF) and for assimilating polluted water (grey WF). Questions have been often asked about the exact meaning behind the numbers from WF accounting. However, to date environmental sustainability of WF has never been assessed at the sub-national level over time. This study evaluated the environmental sustainability of blue, green and grey WF for China's 31 mainland provinces in 2002, 2007 and 2012, and identified the unsustainable hotspots. Overall, the total WF increased by 30% between 2002 and 2012. The growth can be attributed to the increase of grey WF because the green and blue WF showed only a slight rise. Among all provinces investigated in 2012, eleven showed unsustainable blue WF (sustainability index SI