SCIENCE OF THE TOTAL ENVIRONMENT - Alleviating water scarcity and poverty in drylands through telecouplings: Vegetable trade and tourism in northwest ChinaDOWNLOAD
SCIENCE OF THE TOTAL ENVIRONMENT - Alleviating water scarcity and poverty in drylands through telecouplings: Vegetable trade and tourism in northwest China
Water scarcity and poverty are among the most significant global challenges, especially in the world's arid regions. Many countries have been trying to address these challenges. Facilitated by the construction of infrastructure (e.g., high-speed rails) and development of services industries (e.g., hotels and resorts), telecouplings (human-nature interactions over distances, e.g., vegetable trade and tourism industry) are expected to alleviate both water scarcity and poverty, and have been much supported by the central government of China. However, the extent to which these telecouplings can save water and reduce poverty remains unclear and requires quantification. Employing the simulated results from an integrated hydrological model, crop growth model, and multiple socioeconomic data from a large arid region of northwest China, the Heihe River Basin, we evaluated water scarcity using a composite index that considered both water resources and poverty between 2000 and 2012, and assessed the effects of the vegetable trade and tourism on water scarcity and income. Our results show that the vegetable trade contributed 30% of the total water saving and brought an extra 33% of income to rural residents. The tourism industry's contribution of saving water increased from 1% of its total water use in 2000 to 22% in 2012 through its ongoing expanding market. Our results also implicate that future water sustainability is deter- mined by climate factors and by social factors, such as population, economy, policy, and technological developments. Our study provides insights into northwest China and can be used to develop arid regions around the world to better manage natural resources and reduce poverty.