Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2021-475
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2021-475

  21 Oct 2021

21 Oct 2021

Review status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal HESS.

Decreased virtual water outflows from the Yellow River Basin are increasingly critical to China

Shuang Song1,2, Shuai Wang1,2, Xutong Wu1,2, Yongyuan Huang3, and Bojie Fu1,2 Shuang Song et al.
  • 1State Key Laboratory of Earth Surface Processes and Resource Ecology, Faculty of Geographical Science, Beijing Normal University, Beijing 100875, P.R. China
  • 2Institute of Land Surface System and Sustainability, Faculty of Geographical Science, Beijing Normal University, Beijing 100875, P.R. China
  • 3College of Urban and Environmental Sciences, Peking University, Beijing 100871, P.R. China

Abstract. Water scarcity is an emerging threat to food security and socioeconomic prosperity, and it is crucial to assess the response of crop production to water scarcity in large river basins. The water footprint, which takes into account water use in supply chains, provides a powerful tool for assessing the contributions of water resources within a certain region, by tracking the volume and structure of virtual water flows. In this study of the structure of the water footprint network from a complexity perspective, we reassessed the significance of water resources for crop services in a large river basin with a severe water shortage -the Yellow River Basin (YRB) of China. The temporal increase of the complexity index indicated that the Virtual Water out-Flows (VWF) from the YRB were becoming increasingly critical to China; i.e., the ability of YRB to produce crops boosted difficulty of its water being replaced by water exporting from other basins. Decomposition of complexity suggested that during the 1980s to 2000s, the temporally increased complexity was due mainly to the paucity of competitors and the increasing uniqueness of crops supporting VWF. This complexity deeply embedded the YRB into the footprints of a water network that facilitated further development with constrained water resources, but it also reinforced reliance from other regions on YRB’s scarce water. Based on this analysis, we therefore suggest that resource regulation should be carried out at an appropriate time to ensure both the ecological sustainability and high-quality development of river basins.

Shuang Song et al.

Status: open (until 16 Dec 2021)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on hess-2021-475', Anonymous Referee #1, 26 Nov 2021 reply

Shuang Song et al.

Shuang Song et al.

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Short summary
A reasonable assessment of the contribution of the water resources in a river basin to domestic crops supplies will be the first step in balancing the water-food nexus. Our results showed that although the Yellow River Basin had reduced its virtual water outflow, its importance to crop production in China had been increasing when water footprint networks were considered. Our complexity-based approach provides a new perspective for understanding changes in a basin with a severe water shortage.