Resources Science ›› 2021, Vol. 43 ›› Issue (8): 1662-1674.doi: 10.18402/resci.2021.08.13

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Impact of residents’ diet changes on water resource demand in China: From the perspective of nutritional balance

JIANG Wenqu(), LI Xiaoyun(), LIU Chujie, SUN Qian   

  1. College of Economics and Management, Huazhong Agricultural University, Wuhan 430070, China
  • Received:2020-09-10 Revised:2021-02-09 Online:2021-08-25 Published:2021-10-25
  • Contact: LI Xiaoyun


With the continuous growth of income and the rapid advancement of urbanization, the dietary structure of Chinese residents is constantly changing, and the overall trend of increasing consumption of animal foods with higher water consumption to produce has presented a huge challenge to water resources supply in China. Based on the water footprint theory and the data of urban and rural food consumption from 1985 to 2018 and virtual water content of foods in China, this study first calculated and compared the water footprints for different cases, the actual food consumption patterns of urban and rural residents (S1) and the balanced dietary patterns recommended by Chinese resident dietary guidelines (S2). Then we projected the water footprint of food consumption under four scenarios, including two dietary structures (S1,S2) and two population sizes (2018, 2030). The results show that: (1) Per capita urban and rural water footprints of food consumption from 1985 to 2018 in China presented an upward trend with decreasing per capita water consumption of plant foods and increasing per capita water consumption of animal foods; (2) Population size and dietary structure are the main driving factors for food consumption water footprint, with the effects of dietary structure exceeding the effects of population size under the S2 scenario; (3) The change in dietary structure under the nutrition balanced goal will increase the water footprint of urban resident food consumption by 109.49 billion m3 and the water footprint of rural resident food consumption by 90.71 billion m3, and the change of population size will increase the urban resident water footprint of food consumption by 92.94 billion m3 and decrease the rural resident water footprint of food consumption by 61.54 billion m3. The combined effect of the two factors will increase the total water footprint of urban residents’ food consumption by 202.43 billion m3, and the total water footprint of rural residents’ food consumption by 29.17 billion m3, and impose more pressure on the water resources in China. This article provides a new perspective for reducing water use in food production by adjusting dietary structure in the future, and has significance implications for guiding urban and rural residents to a balanced and nutritional diet.

Key words: dietary structure, food consumption, nutritional balance, population size, water footprint, structural decomposition analysis, China