Our directory of things of interest

University Directory

China: move crops to cut water usage

Longji rice terraces, Guangxi province, China Longji rice terraces, Guangxi province, China Tutti Frutti, Shutterstock
01 Aug
China could reduce its water consumption if it reorganised its crop production and trade, reports a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

An international research team combined a hydrological model with simulations of domestic and international trade and measures of regional water consumption to determine the efficiency of water use in China’s food trade. They found that across China, irrigation accounts for about a quarter of water used to produce crops and for 16 per cent of water used in meat production.

However, in drier provinces such as Xinjiang, Ningxia and Inner Mongolia, irrigation use in crop production rose to 85 per cent, 69 per cent and 49 per cent respectively. Crops such as corn, rice and wheat thrive here but are irrigated using water drawn from aquifers. Reducing agricultural production in these provinces and importing food commodities could lead to a significant reduction in water use, the researchers found.

‘Our work highlights opportunities for addressing water scarcity in China by adjusting where water-intensive crops are grown and how they are traded,’ said author Denise Mauzerall of Princeton University in New Jersey. ‘Policies that encourage such adjustments can help conserve water while maintaining China’s food security.’

This story was published in the August 2014 edition of Geographical Magazine

Related items

Geographical Week

Get the best of Geographical delivered straight to your inbox every Friday.


Subscribe to Geographical!

Adventure Canada


Aberystwyth University University of Greenwich The University of Winchester




Travel the Unknown


Like longer reads? Try our in-depth dossiers that provide a comprehensive view of each topic

  • National Clean Air Day
    For National Clean Air Day, Geographical brings together stories about air pollution and the kind of solutions needed to tackle it ...
    The Air That We Breathe
    Cities the world over are struggling to improve air quality as scandals surrounding diesel car emissions come to light and the huge health costs of po...
    Hung out to dry
    Wetlands are vital storehouses of biodiversity and important bulwarks against the effects of climate change, while also providing livelihoods for mill...
    When the wind blows
    With 1,200 wind turbines due to be built in the UK this year, Mark Rowe explores the continuing controversy surrounding wind power and discusses the e...
    Diabetes: The World at Risk
    Diabetes is often thought of as a ‘western’ problem, one linked to the developed world’s overindulgence in fatty foods and chronic lack of physi...


NEVER MISS A STORY - Follow Geographical on Social

Want to stay up to date with breaking Geographical stories? Join the thousands following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and stay informed about the world.