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https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2020-157
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2020-157
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 30 Apr 2020

Submitted as: research article | 30 Apr 2020

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This preprint is currently under review for the journal HESS.

Physical versus economic water footprints in crop production: a case study for China

Xi Yang1,3, La Zhuo2,3,4, Pengxuan Xie1,3, Hongrong Huang1,3, Bianbian Feng1,3, and Pute Wu2,3,4 Xi Yang et al.
  • 1College of Water Resources and Architectural Engineering, Northwest A&F University, Yangling 712100, China
  • 2Institute of Soil and Water Conservation, Northwest A&F University, Yangling 712100, China
  • 3Institute of Water-saving Agriculture in Arid Regions of China, Northwest A&F University, Yangling 712100, China
  • 4Institute of Soil and Water Conservation, Chinese Academy of Sciences and Ministry of Water Resources, Yangling 712100, China

Abstract. A core goal of sustainable agricultural water resources management is to implement lower water footprint (WF), i.e., higher water productivity, while maximising economic benefits in crop production. However, previous studies mostly focused on crop water productivity from a single physical perspective. Little attention is paid to synergies and trade-offs between water consumption and economic value creation of crop production. Distinguishing between blue and green water composition, grain and cash crops, and irrigation and rainfed production mode in China, this study calculates the production-based WF (PWF) and derives the economic value-based WF (EWF) of 14 major crops in 31 provinces for each year over 2001–2016. The synergy evaluation index (SI) of PWF and EWF is proposed to evaluate quantitatively the synergies and trade-offs between the two. Results show that both the PWF and EWF of most considered crops in China decreased with the increase of crop yield and prices. The high (low) values of both PWF and EWF of grain crop tended to obvious cluster in space and there existed a huge difference between blue and green water in economic value creation. Moreover, the SI revealed a serious incongruity between PWFs and EWFs both in grain and cash crops. Negative SI values occurred mostly in northwest China for grain crops, and overall more often and with lower values for cash crops. Unreasonable regional planting structure and crop prices resulted in this incongruity, suggesting the need to promote regional coordinated development to adjust the planting structure according to local conditions and to regulate crop prices rationally.

Xi Yang et al.

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Short summary
Maximising economic benefits with higher water productivity or lower water footprint is the core sustainable goal of agricultural water resources management. Here we look at spatial and temporal variations and developments in both production-based (PWF) and economic value-based water footprints (EWF) of crops, by taking a case study for China. A synergy evaluation index is proposed to further evaluate quantitatively the synergies and trade-offs between PWF and EWF.
Maximising economic benefits with higher water productivity or lower water footprint is the core...
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