Water footprint of the energy sector in China’s two megalopolises

Elsevier, Ecological Modelling, Volume 391, Jan 2019, Pages 9-15.  
Xiawei Liao, Xu Zhao, Yu Jiang, Yu Liu, Yujun Yi, Martin R. Tillotson

Using a consumption-based Multi-Regional Input-Output (MRIO) model, we investigate the distinctive characteristics, self-efficiency or external dependency, of energy demand’s water footprint in China’s two biggest and fastest developing megalopolises. We find that energy demand water footprint in the Jing-Jin-Ji and the Yangtze Delta amounted to 2.41 and 9.59 billion m³of water withdrawal respectively in 2010, of which 848.06 and 973.91 million m³was consumed. Among all energy products, electricity contributed the largest share to the energy sector’s water footprint in both regions. The sectoral distribution of water footprint in the upstream supply chain differed by region. Most significantly, the agricultural sector accounted for more than 30% of water consumption footprint. In addition to water used locally, final energy demands in these two regions induced external water footprint beyond their administrative boundaries. The Jing-Jin-Ji region’s energy sector had a smaller water footprint compared to the water-abundant Yangtze Delta region. However, external water footprint occupied a larger proportion in the former. Such divergence can be attributed to the distinctive water endowments and water-using technologies utilized in their respective energy sectors. Bespoke urban governance and policies tailored to local resource and technology portfolios are recommended for different urban agglomeration energy and water flows.