The water consumption system is a typical dissipative structure system, and its evolution can be described with information entropy. Meanwhile understanding the principal driving factors in the evolution of water consumption is essential for water consumption prediction and management. Firstly, the information entropies of water consumption in China were calculated from 1997 to 2010. Secondly, the principal driving factors were extracted using principal component analysis. Finally, based on the principal driving factors, the water consumption system was predicted. The results showed that the entropies can be divided into two stages: an entropy increasing period (1997–2002) and an entropy convergence period (2003–2010). On a national scale, the entropies in the majority of provinces are focused between 0.6 and 1.1. The principal driving factors were population, gross domestic product, food production, command irrigation area, and urban consumption levels. Chinese water consumption structure will develop an inverted ‘U’-shape curve and water consumption levels are expected to plateau during 1997 to 2020. The system is gradually becoming more orderly through coordination and self-organization.

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