Sectorial Water Use Trends in the Urbanizing Pearl River Delta, China

M. Yao, S.E. Werners, R.W.A. Hutjes, P. Kabat, H.Q. Huang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Assessing and managing water use is crucial for supporting sustainable river basin management and regional development. The first consistent and comprehensive assessment of sectorial water use in the Pearl River Delta (PRD) is presented by analysing homogenized annual water use data from 2000 to 2010 in relation to socio economic statistics for the same period. An abstraction of water use, using the concept of water use intensity, and based on equations inspired by those used in global water resource models, is developed to explore the driving forces underlying water use changes in domestic, industrial and agricultural sectors. We do this at both the level of the region as a whole, as well as for the nine cities that constitute the PRD separately. We find that, despite strong population and economic growth, the PRD managed to stabilize its absolute water use by significant improvements in industrial water use intensities, and early stabilisation of domestic water use intensities. Results reveal large internal differentiation of sectorial water use among the cities in this region, with industrial water use intensity varying from -80 to +95% and domestic water use intensity by +/- 30% compared to the PRD average. In general, per capita water use is highest in the cities that industrialised first. Yet, all cities except Guangzhou are expected to approach a saturation value of per capita water use much below what is suggested in recent global studies. Therefore, existing global assessments probably have overestimated future domestic water use in developing countries. Although scarce and uncertain input data and model limitations lead to a high level of uncertainty, the presented conceptualization of water use is useful in exploring the underlying driving forces of water use trends.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0115039
Number of pages20
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • south china
  • climate-change
  • demand model
  • availability
  • drainage
  • impacts
  • streams
  • system
  • growth

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