Based on the national input–output table, a comparable price non-competitive input–output table was compiled for 2002, 2007, and 2012. The influence factors of price and product imports were removed from the table. Furthermore, a water-use input–output table was constructed based on the links between the economic system and water resources management. With the multi-factor structural decomposition analysis (SDA) model developed in this paper, the driving forces of water use were decomposed into 18 factors, and quantitative effect results were obtained. Total water use in China increased by 3.9% from 2002 to 2007 and by 5.4% from 2007 to 2012 with the combined effects of multiple factors. For example, the increase in economic scale raised water use by 46.6% and 45.5%, respectively. Advancement in agricultural technology (production and water-saving technologies) reduced water use by 14.9% and 19.8%, respectively. Reducing the proportion of thermal/nuclear power and increasing the price of electricity have water use-reducing effects. Changes in the mode of development considerably reduced water use by 9.5% and 5.3%, respectively. Water-use management should focus on factors that have great influence on water use and show high water-use sensitivity.
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