EGU General Assembly 2020
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Water for maize for pigs for pork: an analysis of inter-provincial trade in China

La Zhuo1,2, Yilin Liu1, Hong Yang3,4, Arjen Y Hoekstra5,7, Wenfeng Liu3,6, Xinchun Cao8, Mengru Wang9, and Pute Wu1,2
La Zhuo et al.
  • 1Northwest A & F University, Institute of Soil and Water Conservation, Yangling 712100, China
  • 2Chinese Academy of Sciences & Ministry of Water Resources, Institute of Soil and Water Conservation, Yangling 712100, China
  • 3Eawag, Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology, Duebendorf CH-8600, Switzerland
  • 4University of Basel, Department of Environmental Sciences, MGU, Basel CH-4003, Switzerland
  • 5University of Twente, Twente Water Centre ,Enschede 7500AE, The Netherlands
  • 6Université Paris-Saclay, Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l’Environnement, LSCE/IPSL, CEA-CNRS-UVSQ, F-91191 Gif-sur-Yvette, France
  • 7National University of Singapore, Institute of Water Policy, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, 259770, Singapore
  • 8Hohai University, Nanjing 210098, China
  • 9Wageningen University & Research, Water Systems and Global Change Group, Wageningen, 6708 PB, The Netherlands

Trade in commodities implies trade in virtual water (VW), which refers to the water that was used to produce the traded goods. Various studies have quantified international or inter-provincial virtual water (VW) flows related to the trade in crops and animal products. Until date, however, no effort has been undertaken to understand how the water embodied in traded feed crops (trade stage TS1) will be transferred further because of trade in animal products (trade stage TS2). This is the first study showing this mechanism, in a case study in China for maize (the major pig feed) and pork (the dominant meat), considering the period 2000-2013. We estimate the annual green and blue water footprints in maize production and then quantify the inter-provincial VW flows related to trade in maize (TS1) and trade in maize embodied in pork (TS2). Results show that in TS1, maize-related VW flowed from the water-scarce North to the water-rich South, with an increase of 40% over the study period (from 43 to 61 billion m3 y-1). In TS2, about 10% of the water embodied in maize exports from North to South China returns in the form of pork, with an increase in the absolute amount of 25% (from 4.8 to 6.1 billion m3 y-1). Considering blue VW flows specifically, we find that North-to-South blue VW flows decreased by 5% in TS1, while South-to-North blue VW flows increased by 23% in TS2.



Zhuo, L. et al. (2019) Water for maize for pigs for pork: An analysis of inter-provincial trade in China. Water Research 166, 115074, doi:


How to cite: Zhuo, L., Liu, Y., Yang, H., Hoekstra, A. Y., Liu, W., Cao, X., Wang, M., and Wu, P.: Water for maize for pigs for pork: an analysis of inter-provincial trade in China, EGU General Assembly 2020, Online, 4–8 May 2020, EGU2020-3203,, 2020

This abstract will not be presented.