Water Shortages Could Slow China's Growth

china river photo

Photo via eutrophication&hypoxia; via Flickr CC

Earlier this week, we pointed out that only a small fraction of China's water is usable, let alone drinkable. And yet, the country is at the height of development. How can a country with so many people doing so much building and mimicking wasteful western ways have enough water to supply the demand. According to a new report, it doesn't. The water shortages being experienced globally are increasing in China as well, and it is threatening the forward motion of development. Yale 360 reports, "With 20 percent of the world's population but just 7 percent of its available freshwater, China faces serious water shortages as its economy booms and urbanization increases. The government is planning massive water diversion projects, but environmentalists say conservation -- especially in the wasteful agricultural sector -- is the key."

The Chinese government has indeed been under the gun from farmers and neighboring countries for water shortages, though the government continues to blame drought conditions rather than dams and hydroelectric projects.

But China is set on building up new cities, and new cities requires water for both construction and for supplying the city once its established. Providing clean water to existing cities already seems to be troublesome, so how will China manage to urbanize more land while dealing with decreasing water supplies?

According to Yale 360, over 350 million people will move from China's countryside to cities -- that's more than the population of the entire United States. But the World Bank estimates that China has only one quarter the global average of water per capita.

As people move from the country to the city and expect to be supplied with more resources like electricity, in itself water-intensive to generate, the real problem for China is water -- from desertification to reduced supplies from melting glaciers, from dwindled groundwater supplies to drought, from badly planned dam construction to poor irrigation policies, China is going to have to take a serious look at its limits.

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More on Water and China
China's Water Pollution Twice the Officially Listed Levels
Western China is Drying Up, But Is Moving Farmers to Cities the Right Answer?
Beijing Slams Pepsi and Coke As "Dirty" For Using Too Much Water

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