Water footprint has become a common method to study the water resources utilization in recent years. By using input–output analysis and dilution theory, the internal water footprint, blue water footprint and grey water footprint of China from 2002 to 2012 were estimated, and the consumption structure of water footprint and virtual water trade were analyzed. The results show: (1) From 2002 to 2012, the average annual internal water footprint was 3.83 trillion m3
in China, of which the blue water footprint was 0.25 trillion m3
, and the grey water footprint was 3.58 trillion m3
(with Grade III water standard accounting); both the internal water footprint and grey water footprint experienced decreasing trends from 2002 to 2012, except for a dramatic increase in 2010; (2) Average annual virtual blue water footprint was the greatest in agriculture (39.2%), while tertiary industry (27.5%) and food and tobacco processing (23.7%) were the top two highest for average annual virtual grey water footprint; (3) Virtual blue water footprint in most sectors showed increasing trends due to the increase of final demand, while virtual grey water footprint in most sectors showed decreasing trends due to the decreases of total return water coefficients and conversion coefficients of virtual grey water footprint; (4) For water resources, China was self-reliant: the water used for producing the products and services to meet domestic consumption was taken domestically; meanwhile, China exported virtual water to other countries, which aggravated the water stress in China.
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