The sustainable and efficient use of water resources has gained wide social concern, and the key point is to investigate the virtual water trade of the water-scarcity region and optimize water resources allocation. In this paper, we apply a multi-regional input-output model to analyze patterns and the spillover risks of the interprovincial virtual water trade in the Yellow River Economic Belt, China. The results show that: (1) The agriculture and supply sector as well as electricity and hot water production own the largest total water use coefficient, being high-risk water use sectors in the Yellow River Economic Belt. These two sectors also play a major role in the inflow and outflow of virtual water; (2) The overall situation of the Yellow River Economic Belt is virtual water inflow, but the pattern of virtual water trade between eastern and western provinces is quite different. Shandong, Henan, Shaanxi, and Inner Mongolia belong to the virtual water net inflow area, while the virtual water net outflow regions are concentrated in Shanxi, Gansu, Xinjiang, Ningxia, and Qinghai; (3) Due to higher water resource stress, Shandong and Shanxi suffer a higher cumulative risk through virtual water trade. Also, Shandong, Henan, and Inner Mongolia have a higher spillover risk to other provinces in the Yellow River Economic Belt.
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