Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Water and will in short supply in China

Across China, the signs of the country's distressed water supply have grown increasingly severe over the past several years. In February, Vice Minister of Water Resources Hu Simi publicly stated "The situation is extremely serious in many areas. With overdevelopment, water use has already surpassed what our natural resources can bear."

Estimates are that some 400 of China's 600 cities are already facing water crises of some sort, most related to either pollution of limited supplies, or in several cases millennia-old aquifers having been completely used up as the region has rapidly industrialized. In 2010, the Ministry of Land and Resources estimated that 57% of the country's underground water should be classified either as "bad" or "very bad".

The 2011 drought in southern China made this issue abundantly clear. For a country with a long history of resource-induced famines and social instability, last year's drought was an ugly reminder of the role one of the planet's most easily overlooked, yet increasingly precious resources, will play as the country develops. Projects like the South-to-North Water Project, the largest man-made water diversion project ever planned, are designed to address the scarcity of water in China's barren northern provinces where most of China's northern provinces must subsist on only 15% of the country's total water supply. Read More