Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


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
Further information:

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Dispersal of Fish Eggs by Water Birds – Just a Myth?
19.02.2018 | Universität Basel

nachricht Removing fossil fuel subsidies will not reduce CO2 emissions as much as hoped
08.02.2018 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Researchers at Fraunhofer monitor re-entry of Chinese space station Tiangong-1

In just a few weeks from now, the Chinese space station Tiangong-1 will re-enter the Earth's atmosphere where it will to a large extent burn up. It is possible that some debris will reach the Earth's surface. Tiangong-1 is orbiting the Earth uncontrolled at a speed of approx. 29,000 km/h.Currently the prognosis relating to the time of impact currently lies within a window of several days. The scientists at Fraunhofer FHR have already been monitoring Tiangong-1 for a number of weeks with their TIRA system, one of the most powerful space observation radars in the world, with a view to supporting the German Space Situational Awareness Center and the ESA with their re-entry forecasts.

Following the loss of radio contact with Tiangong-1 in 2016 and due to the low orbital height, it is now inevitable that the Chinese space station will...

Im Focus: Alliance „OLED Licht Forum“ – Key partner for OLED lighting solutions

Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP, provider of research and development services for OLED lighting solutions, announces the founding of the “OLED Licht Forum” and presents latest OLED design and lighting solutions during light+building, from March 18th – 23rd, 2018 in Frankfurt a.M./Germany, at booth no. F91 in Hall 4.0.

They are united in their passion for OLED (organic light emitting diodes) lighting with all of its unique facets and application possibilities. Thus experts in...

Im Focus: Mars' oceans formed early, possibly aided by massive volcanic eruptions

Oceans formed before Tharsis and evolved together, shaping climate history of Mars

A new scenario seeking to explain how Mars' putative oceans came and went over the last 4 billion years implies that the oceans formed several hundred million...

Im Focus: Tiny implants for cells are functional in vivo

For the first time, an interdisciplinary team from the University of Basel has succeeded in integrating artificial organelles into the cells of live zebrafish embryos. This innovative approach using artificial organelles as cellular implants offers new potential in treating a range of diseases, as the authors report in an article published in Nature Communications.

In the cells of higher organisms, organelles such as the nucleus or mitochondria perform a range of complex functions necessary for life. In the networks of...

Im Focus: Locomotion control with photopigments

Researchers from Göttingen University discover additional function of opsins

Animal photoreceptors capture light with photopigments. Researchers from the University of Göttingen have now discovered that these photopigments fulfill an...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

Virtual reality conference comes to Reutlingen

19.03.2018 | Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

International Tinnitus Conference of the Tinnitus Research Initiative in Regensburg

13.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

TRAPPIST-1 planets provide clues to the nature of habitable worlds

21.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

The search for dark matter widens

21.03.2018 | Materials Sciences

Natural enemies reduce pesticide use

21.03.2018 | Life Sciences

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>