Acta Geographica Sinica ›› 2019, Vol. 74 ›› Issue (12): 2631-2645.doi: 10.11821/dlxb201912015

• Resources, Environment and Sustainable Development • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Local and distant virtual water trades in Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region

SUN Si'ao1, ZHENG Xiangyi2, LIU Haimeng1   

  1. 1. Key Laboratory of Regional Sustainable Development Modeling, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, CAS, Beijing 100101, China
    2. Business School, Guizhou University, Guiyang 550025, China
  • Received:2018-04-25 Revised:2019-11-13 Online:2019-12-25 Published:2019-12-25
  • Supported by:
    National Natural Science Foundation of China(41590842);National Natural Science Foundation of China(41601167);National Natural Science Foundation of China(41801164)


Virtual water transfers can redistribute water resources among different regions, hence to reduce or aggregate water scarcity in one region. The Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region, which is located in the North China Plain, has long been suffered from water scarcity. Knowledge on virtual water trades within and beyond this region is vital for understanding water resources problems and making responding strategies. In this study, water footprints and virtual water in Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei are computed based on the multi-regional input-output table and provincial water uses in China in 2010. Spatial patterns and characteristics of virtual water flows are analyzed, with an emphasis on separate accounting of local and external virtual water transfers. In addition, the relationships between virtual water transfers and distances from Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei to provinces where virtual water is from are examined. Main results include: (1) Water use intensities of different sectors in Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei present a big variability. Agricultural water use intensity is the highest. (2) Per capita water footprints in Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei present large difference, which are 405 m 3, 568 m 3 and 191 m 3, respectively. (3) Imported virtual water in Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei come from different provinces all over China. Local and external water footprints are 9.14 billion m 3 and 19.85 billion m 3, respectively. The region contributing the largest share of external virtual water to Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region is the western region in China. (4) Overall, virtual water inflows in Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei tend to come from neighbouring provinces. Average distances of virtual water inflows in Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei are 1049 km, 1297 km and 688 km, respectively. (5) Beijing and Tianjin import net virtual water, indicating that the socio-economic development in Beijing and Tianjin heavily relies on external water resources. Hebei exports net virtual water, providing water resources to Beijing, Tianjin and other provinces in China. Net virtual water export in Hebei aggregates local water scarcity. The results benefit policy implications on sustainable water resources management under the framework of virtual water trade. Solutions possibly relieving water scarcity in Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region include increasing water use efficiency, upgrading industrial structure, promoting low water footprint consumption mode, and implementing virtual water strategy.

Key words: Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region, local and external virtual water, virtual water trade, water footprint, water resources management