Urban water metabolism efficiency assessment: Integrated analysis of available and virtual water

Resolving the complex environmental problems of water pollution and shortage which occur during urbanization requires the systematic assessment of urban water metabolism efficiency (WME). While previous research has tended to focus on either available or virtual water metabolism, here we argue that the systematic problems arising during urbanization require an integrated assessment of available and virtual WME, using an indicator system based on material flow analysis (MFA) results. Future research should focus on the following areas: 1) analysis of available and virtual water flow patterns and processes through urban districts in different urbanization phases in years with varying amounts of rainfall, and their environmental effects; 2) based on the optimization of social, economic and environmental benefits, establishment of an indicator system for urban WME assessment using MFA results; 3) integrated assessment of available and virtual WME in districts with different urbanization levels, to facilitate study of the interactions between the natural and social water cycles; 4) analysis of mechanisms driving differences in WME between districts with different urbanization levels, and the selection of dominant social and economic driving indicators, especially those impacting water resource consumption. Combinations of these driving indicators could then be used to design efficient water resource metabolism solutions, and integrated management policies for reduced water consumption.