JOURNAL OF NATURAL RESOURCES ›› 2021, Vol. 36 ›› Issue (2): 356-371.doi: 10.31497/zrzyxb.20210207

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Assessment of water resources carrying capacity from the perspective of virtual water social cycle

DING Chao(), HU Yong-jiang, WANG Zhen-hua(), ZHAO Na, DONG Wen-xiu, WANG Li-ming   

  1. School of Civil Engineering, Inner Mongolia University of Science and Technology, Baotou 014010, Inner Mongolia, China
  • Received:2019-06-12 Revised:2020-02-03 Online:2021-02-28 Published:2021-04-28
  • Contact: WANG Zhen-hua;


The shortage and uneven distribution of water resources in China are very serious. The contradiction of water utilization has changed from insufficient supply to overload of Water Resources Carrying Capacity (WRCC). Based on the concept of sustainability, this study, combined with the society cycle process of virtual water, improves the evaluation method of WRCC and analyzes the WRCC of Northwest China. The method can be helpful to maintain the integrity of water ecology and the stability of water supply. The results show that: (1) The WRCC of Shaanxi is generally good. However, it has a downward trend in the past ten years, in which the environmental pressure is the largest. The WRCC of Gansu shows a downward trend on the whole, especially in terms of environmental and social pressure. The WRCC of Ningxia has been on the verge of overloading or slight overloading, and alleviated by virtual water trade. The WRCC of Xinjiang is greatly affected by virtual water outflow and has been on the verge of overloading or slight overloading. The WRCC of Qinghai is basically in a surplus state of carrying capacity. (2) Virtual water trade has a significant influence on the comprehensive pressure index of WRCC. The evaluation method of WRCC, combined with the society cycle process of virtual water, has a practical significance. (3) The regions of different endowments of water resources and the efficiency of using water can be appropriately different in development modes. We suggest that the regions with high and low use efficiency of water take the "radical development mode" and the "radical environmental protection mode", respectively.

Key words: Northwest China, water resources, virtual water, bearing capacity index