Freshwater resources are unevenly distributed in China. Water can be redistributed in physical terms, through water transfer projects and virtually, virtual water for the production of traded products. Here, we explore whether such water redistributions can help mitigate water stress in China. Focusing on actual water flows alone misses an important part of the picture. This study conducted by Klaus Hubacek in collaboration with researchers from the UK and China, for the first time, compiles a full inventory for physical water transfers at a provincial level and maps virtual water flows between Chinese provinces in 2007 and 2030. Hubacek's group found that both physical and virtual water flows exacerbate water stress for the main water-exporting provinces. The results highlight the need for more emphasis to be placed on water demand management rather than the current focus on supply oriented management.