In the context of the freshwater crisis, accounting for water withdrawal could help planners better regulate water use in different sectors to combat water scarcity. However, the water withdrawal statistics in China are patchy, and the water data across all sectors at the city level appear to be relatively insufficient. Hence, we develop a general framework to, for the first time, estimate the water withdrawal of 58 economic–social–environmental sectors in cities in China. This methodology was applied because only inconsistent water statistics collected from different data sources at the city level are available. We applied it to 18 representative Chinese cities. Different from conventional perceptions that agriculture is usually the largest water user, industrial and household water withdrawal may also occupy the largest percentages in the water-use structure of some cities. The discrepancy among annual household water use per capita in the urban areas of different cities is relatively small (as is the case for rural areas), but that between urban and rural areas is large. As a result, increased attention should be paid to controlling industrial and urban household water use in particular cities. China should specifically prepare annual water accounts at the city level and establish a timetable to tackle water scarcity, which is a basic step toward efficient and sustainable water crisis mitigation.
- industrial ecology
- water withdrawal