Inequality and polarization are terms usually used to describe the overall dispersion of income distribution and the phenomenon of a divided society with a disappearing middle class and increasing rich and poor populations. However, these terms have seldom been used in water sciences. In this paper, the concepts of inequality and polarization are employed to analyze the distribution of urban water use of different cities. Using for reference the conception of Gini coefficient, the EUWU (Equality of Urban Water Use) model is built to analyze the equality of urban water use. And, the PUWU (Polarization of Urban Water Use) model based on exponential functions, which can limit the index of polarization to the range (0, 1) effectively, is built to analyze the polarization of urban water use. Inequality and polarization of resident, industrial and commercial water use in 16 cities in the Yangtze River Delta, the fastest growing region of China, are evaluated using the EUWU model and PUWU model, respectively. The results show that inequality of residential, industrial and commercial water use has decreased by 6.5%, 11.2% and 8.4%, while the index of polarization has increased by 3.9%, 3.8% and 0.1% in Yangtze River Delta area from 2001 to 2006.
Keywords: EUWU model, inequality, polarization, PUWU model, urban water use