Counting the cost of water
Economic expansion in China is threatening the country’s scarce water resources, according to a new study by the University of Leeds. Uneven development of trade across the country means that water-intensive or polluting industries are expanding in areas where water is in shortest supply.
Dr Klaus Hubacek and Mr Dabo Guan from the University’s Sustainability Research Institute assessed how much water different industries consume or pollute. Using these figures, they compared the ‘virtual water flow’ between regions in China based on each region’s imports and exports and the water consumed during their production.
Dr Hubacek said, “You would expect drier regions to depend chiefly on industries that use less water and import goods that require a lot of water to produce. In fact our study found the opposite to be true.”
Water-scarce North China mainly exports water-intensive commodities, like irrigated agricultural products, processed foods, paper and textiles. Guangdong in South China, where water is abundant, exports comparatively water non-intensive commodities such as electrical equipment and commercial or social services.
The researchers believe this imbalance is partly due to the government’s economic policies. Dr Klaus Hubacek said, “Over the past thirty years Chinese economic policies have supported Guangdong more than other regions, leading to a boom in industries that use fewer natural resources in their production.”
Within China, water is so unevenly distributed that the North, which supports half the country’s population, holds just one fifth of its total water. In some parts, water is so limited that it is considered to be the most critical natural resource.
The problem in China’s dry North has been made worse as their water intensive industries also pollute their limited streams and rivers. The industries based in Guangdong in the South use and pollute comparatively little of its abundant water supplies. By importing products from the North, Guangdong avoids polluting its own watercourses and ensures the pollution takes place elsewhere.
Dr Hubacek said, “Environmental resources have been seen as cost-free in China and as such have not been considered an important factor in economic decision-making. However, for economic expansion to be sustainable, economic policies and development must take into account water consumption and availability. This is as true in China as it is elsewhere – including the UK.”
“Most of the goods we consume are produced in China and other developing countries and so we export a lot of our pollution problems to them – which is partly why the UK and other developed countries are so successful in improving their environmental records. Our work on virtual water flows is a first step towards making those trade links visible.”
Isobel Briggs | alfa
The most recent press releases about innovation >>>
Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:
Physicists working with researcher Oriol Romero-Isart devised a new simple scheme to theoretically generate arbitrarily short and focused electromagnetic fields. This new tool could be used for precise sensing and in microscopy.
Microwaves, heat radiation, light and X-radiation are examples for electromagnetic waves. Many applications require to focus the electromagnetic fields to...
Strong light-matter coupling in these semiconducting tubes may hold the key to electrically pumped lasers
Light-matter quasi-particles can be generated electrically in semiconducting carbon nanotubes. Material scientists and physicists from Heidelberg University...
Fraunhofer IPA has developed a proximity sensor made from silicone and carbon nanotubes (CNT) which detects objects and determines their position. The materials and printing process used mean that the sensor is extremely flexible, economical and can be used for large surfaces. Industry and research partners can use and further develop this innovation straight away.
At first glance, the proximity sensor appears to be nothing special: a thin, elastic layer of silicone onto which black square surfaces are printed, but these...
3-D shape acquisition using water displacement as the shape sensor for the reconstruction of complex objects
A global team of computer scientists and engineers have developed an innovative technique that more completely reconstructs challenging 3D objects. An ancient...
Physicists have developed a new technique that uses electrical voltages to control the electron spin on a chip. The newly-developed method provides protection from spin decay, meaning that the contained information can be maintained and transmitted over comparatively large distances, as has been demonstrated by a team from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute. The results have been published in Physical Review X.
For several years, researchers have been trying to use the spin of an electron to store and transmit information. The spin of each electron is always coupled...