18 Oct 2023
 | 18 Oct 2023
Status: this preprint is open for discussion.

Reframing water demand management: a new co-governance framework coupling supply-side and demand-side solutions toward sustainability

Yueyi Liu, Hang Zheng, and Jianshi Zhao

Abstract. Water demand management adopts economic and non-economic measures to reduce human water use. However, it is argued in this study that water use changes may cause idle water supply facilities and revenue losses, thereby challenging the sustainability of water supply systems in the context of climate change. A co-governance framework was established to inspire practical strategies of sustaining water supply systems by re-evaluating the long-term impacts of water demand changes. This framework integrates the political, financial, and consumptive needs of the government, the market, and the users through a collaborative strategy coupling both supply-side and demand-side solutions. The proposed framework was applied to the analysis of the sustainability of China's South-to-North Water Diversion Project. It is found that the South-to-North Water Diversion Project is not a simple water supply infrastructure but rather a synthesis of supply-side and demand-side water management solutions. Actively releasing water for ecological and cultural purposes is suggested in this study to maintain the socioecological benefits of the project in the context of human water use decline. The economic cost of the water supply could be recovered by ongoing revenues that include not only the water fees charged to users but also the benefits gained from cooperative investment in broader water-related businesses by both the state-owned water-transfer company and local governments in water-receiving areas. The proposed framework and strategies are valuable for other water utilities around the world, especially those challenged by reduced water demand caused by climate change, high water prices, and economic depression.

Yueyi Liu et al.

Status: open (until 03 Jan 2024)

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Yueyi Liu et al.

Yueyi Liu et al.


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Short summary
Global climate change is causing some previously arid regions to become more humid. Economic downturns in these areas are leading to a decrease in water demand. These factors are further leading to a certain level of underutilization of existing water supply projects in the area. This study finds that actively releasing ecological water increases the sustainability of these water supply project. The cost of ecological water supply can be recovered by investment in water-related businesses.