Journal Article - Environmental Science and Technology

Life Cycle Water Use of Energy Production and its Environmental Impacts in China

| December 17, 2013


The energy sector is a major user of fresh water resources in China. We investigate the life cycle water withdrawals, consumptive water use, and wastewater discharge of China's energy sectors and their water-consumption-related environmental impacts, using a mixed-unit multi-regional input-output (MRIO) model and life cycle impact assessment method (LCIA) based on the Eco-indicator 99 framework. Energy production is responsible for 61.4 billion m3 water withdrawals, 10.8 billion m3 water consumption and 5.0 billion m3 wastewater discharges in China, which are equivalent to 12.3%, 4.1% and 8.3% of the national totals, respectively. The most important feature of the energy-water nexus in China is the significantly uneven spatial distribution of consumptive water use and its corresponding environmental impacts caused by the geological discrepancy between fossil fuel resources, fresh water resources and energy demand. More than half of energy-related water withdrawals occur in the east and south coastal regions. However, the arid north and northwest regions have much larger water consumption than the water abundant south region, and bear almost all environmental damages caused by consumptive water use.

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For Academic Citation: Zhang, Chao and Laura Diaz Anadon. Life Cycle Water Use of Energy Production and its Environmental Impacts in China.” Environmental Science and Technology, vol. 47. no. 24. (December 17, 2013):

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