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Urban water sustainability: framework and application

Wu Yang, Department of Environmental Science, Zhejiang University, China
David W. Hyndman, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Michigan State University, USA
Julie A. Winkler, Department of Geography, Michigan State University, USA
Andrés Viña, Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability, Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, Michigan State University, USA
Jillian M. Deines, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Michigan State University, USA; Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability, Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, Michigan State University, USA
Frank Lupi, Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability, Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, Michigan State University, USA; Department of Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics, Michigan State University, USA
Lifeng Luo, Department of Geography, Michigan State University, USA
Yunkai Li, Department of Hydraulic Engineering, China Agriculture University, China
Bruno Basso, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Michigan State University, USA
Chunmiao Zheng, School of Environmental Science and Engineering, South University of Science and Technology of China, China; Center for Water Research, College of Engineering, Peking University, China; Department of Geological Sciences, University of Alabama, USA
Dongchun Ma, Beijing Water Science and Technology Institute, China; State Key Lab of Urban and Regional Ecology, Research Center for Eco-environmental Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences, China
Shuxin Li, Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability, Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, Michigan State University, USA
Xiao Liu, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Michigan State University, USA
Hua Zheng, State Key Lab of Urban and Regional Ecology, Research Center for Eco-environmental Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences, China
Guoliang Cao, Center for Water Research, College of Engineering, Peking University, China
Qingyi Meng, Beijing Water Science and Technology Institute, China
Zhiyun Ouyang, State Key Lab of Urban and Regional Ecology, Research Center for Eco-environmental Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences, China
Jianguo Liu, Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability, Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, Michigan State University, USA

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-08685-210404

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Abstract

Urban areas such as megacities (those with populations greater than 10 million) are hotspots of global water use and thus face intense water management challenges. Urban areas are influenced by local interactions between human and natural systems and interact with distant systems through flows of water, food, energy, people, information, and capital. However, analyses of water sustainability and the management of water flows in urban areas are often fragmented. There is a strong need to apply integrated frameworks to systematically analyze urban water dynamics and factors that influence these dynamics. We apply the framework of telecoupling (socioeconomic and environmental interactions over distances) to analyze urban water issues, using Beijing as a demonstration megacity. Beijing exemplifies the global water sustainability challenge for urban settings. Like many other cities, Beijing has experienced drastic reductions in quantity and quality of both surface water and groundwater over the past several decades; it relies on the import of real and virtual water from sending systems to meet its demand for clean water, and releases polluted water to other systems (spillover systems). The integrative framework we present demonstrates the importance of considering socioeconomic and environmental interactions across telecoupled human and natural systems, which include not only Beijing (the water-receiving system) but also water-sending systems and spillover systems. This framework helps integrate important components of local and distant human–nature interactions and incorporates a wide range of local couplings and telecouplings that affect water dynamics, which in turn generate significant socioeconomic and environmental consequences, including feedback effects. The application of the framework to Beijing reveals many research gaps and management needs. We also provide a foundation to apply the telecoupling framework to better understand and manage water sustainability in other cities around the world.

Key words

environmental governance; megacity; spillover effects; sustainability; systems approach; telecoupling; virtual water; water management

Copyright © 2016 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article  is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.  You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

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