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DID YOU KNOW That Drought is not just a China Problem?

Popularity 12Viewed 3032 times 2015-4-7 08:36 |System category:News| China

This past week, the Governor of the state of California in the United States an economy that it has been noted is the seventh largest economy in the world announced the first time ever mandatory California statewide water rationing. Shocking as it may be to some the reality is that it doesn’t go far enough. At the very least, Governor Brown’s announcement means that there is finally a real serious acknowledgement that at least California like China has a problem. 

Like California, China has a water problem especially in the north.  Like California, a large percentage of the water consumption in China is agricultural in California it makes up eighty percent in China seventy percent.  A stark choice food or water.  So changing food consumption patterns can further exacerbate or improve the problem of water. The fact is that different foods require different amount of water to grow. Meat is probably the most demanding. A more water conservative diet would need to include a lot less meat ( full disclosure I am not a vegetarian) and a lot more grains. The more China moves to a more western diet the worse the problem gets.  (

Part of the problem has been price. For too long water has been free or priced at a flat rate regardless of quantity used. Unfortunately this has meant it has been wasted and used without a consideration of it’s incredible value to humanity. This is finally now changing but we need to do more.  On the residential level we need more local recycling projects.. This means that for example new homes not only have fresh water piping serving their primary cleaning and drinking needs but also secondary grey water piping systems. This means toilets and lawns can use water that has already been used once in the home for showering and doing laundry and dishes.

The reality however is that this is not a China or California specific problem. This is a looming problem worldwide. As the United Nations has acknowledged the world faces a huge shortfall that if not properly prepared for will lead to a forty percent shortage of water by 2030. ( “Unsustainable development pathways and governance failures have affected the quality and availability of water resources, compromising their capacity to generate social and economic benefits,” the United Nations report noted. “Economic growth itself is not a guarantee for wider social progress.” 

Brazil, the Saudi Arabia of water is having problems. Being home to the Amazon and other mighty rivers, huge dams and one-eighth of the world’s fresh water, hasn’t prevented Sao Paolo, Rio de Janeiro and Minas Gerais from facing the consequences of increasing population, cutting down forests and destroying wetlands. “ Climate change has arrived to stay,” Geraldo Alckmin, the governor of São Paulo State, said this month. “When it rains, it rains too much, and when there’s drought, it’s way too dry.”(

"One of the north’s main water sources, the Yellow River, has been shrinking for the past three decades, drying up almost every year before reaching the sea. Hebei province, which neighbors Beijing, has seen 969 of its 1,052 lakes dry up; some of its farmers water their crops with sewage water. Wang Shucheng, a former minister of water resources, predicted that if groundwater extraction in the north continues at current rates, in 15 years there will be none left.

Like California,  China has been working on solving the problem.  The South-North Water Diversion Project will use three canals to move 44.8 billion cubic meters of water each year from the water rich south to the dry north( supplying more water won’t solve the underlying problem of inefficient water use and growing demand.

What do you think?  What else should be done in China at the local, regional and national levels to help solve this problem.

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(Opinions of the writer in this blog don't represent those of China Daily.)




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