Assessing Water Scarcity by Simultaneously Considering Environmental Flow Requirements, Water Quantity, and Water Quality (2016)

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Water scarcity is a widespread problem in many parts of the world. Most previous methods of water scarcity assessment only considered water quantity, and ignored water quality. In addition, the environmental flow requirement (EFR) was commonly not explicitly considered in the assessment. In this study, we developed an approach to assess water scarcity by considering both water quantity and quality, while at the same time explicitly considering EFR. We applied this quantity–quality-EFR (QQE) approach for the Huangqihai River Basin in Inner Mongolia, China. We found that to keep the river ecosystem health at a “good” level (i.e., suitable for swimming, fishing, and aquaculture), 26% of the total blue water resources should be allocated to meet the EFR. When such a “good” level is maintained, the quantity- and quality-based water scarcity indicators were 1.3 and 14.2, respectively; both were above the threshold of 1.0. The QQE water scarcity indicator thus can be expressed as 1.3(26%)|14.2, indicating that the basin was suffering from scarcity problems related to both water quantity and water quality for a given rate of EFR. The current water consumption has resulted in degradation of the basin's river ecosystems, and the EFR cannot be met in 3 months of a year. To reverse this situation, future policies should aim to reduce water use and pollution discharge, meet the EFR for maintaining healthy river ecosystems, and substantially improve pollution treatment.
Year: 2016
Language: English
In: Ecological Indicators, 60 : 434-441 p.

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 Record created 2016-04-06, last modified 2016-04-06