Water footprint (WF) is a measure of the actual appropriation of water resources. WF accounting can provide a scientific basis for the managements of water resources. In this study, a multi-regional input-output model is employed to measure the quantity of blue WF (WF) and inter-provincial virtual water (VW) flows in China for the years of 2007 and 2010. The results show that: (1) China’s total WF increased from 205.42 billion m3
in 2007 to 229.34 billion m3
in 2010. Approximately 42% of the WF was attributed to VW embodied in inter-provincial trade. Xinjiang is the largest province of VW export, whereas Shanghai had the largest net VW inflows. (2) From 2007 to 2010, the share of the agricultural sector in the entire VW trade declined, but was still as high as 82.78%, followed by the industrial sector. (3) The north-to-south and south-to-south patterns were witnessed in the domestic VW flows. The provincial WF variations are found to be affected by the per capital GDP, total water resources, per capita water resources, and urban population. (4) By linking VW with an integrated WAVE+ (water accounting and vulnerability evaluation) factor, it was found that virtual scarce water (VSW) was mainly exported by the provinces in northern China. At the national level, the amounts of VSW inflows were consistently greater than those of VSW outflows for both years, 2007 and 2010, implying an increased pressure on the provinces with water deprivation issues. Overall, these results can provide a basis for refining the spatiotemporal allocation of water resources and mitigating the conflict between water supply and demand in China.
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