Water, Water Everywhere, and Not a Drop to Spare

As China’s economy continues to transition from agrarian to industrial, it only gets worse from here.  Furthermore, it’s pretty much axiomatic that the more the Chinese government attempts to centrally-manage production and distribution of this resource, the more problems will occur. — Displacedjim


China’s water stress set to worsen with transfer initiatives

by Staff Writers

Norwich, UK (SPX) Jan 13, 2015

New research paints a grim picture for the future of China’s water supply, as its booming economy continues to heap pressure on its natural resources, according to scientists at the University of East Anglia (UEA), the University of Leeds and other international institutions.

Research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) compiles for the first time a full inventory of physical water transfers and ‘virtual’ water redistribution via trade between China’s provinces.

The study determined that water stress is only partially mitigated by China’s current two-pronged approach: physical water transfers to water-depleted regions, including the major South-North water transfer projects, or the ‘virtual’ water embodied in traded products between regions and countries.

Moreover, the efforts are exacerbating water stress for China’s poorer water-exporting regions, with virtual water transfers accounting for more than one-third of the country’s national water supply. Up to 65 per cent of the water supply in some provinces is earmarked for virtual water redistribution, to be used for infrastructure and for producing exports.

Until China significantly improves its water use efficiency and addresses the impact its expanding economy is having on its natural resources, the situation will continue to deteriorate, the researchers conclude.

An international effort led by the Beijing Forestry University (China), UEA and Leeds (UK) and the University of Maryland (US), the research analyses data from 2007 and looks ahead to China’s water distribution plans in 2030.

Water stress is likely to become more severe in the main water-exporting provinces, based on policy initiatives aimed at boosting development in wealthier regions to meet consumption demands.

Prof Dabo Guan of UEA’s School of International Development said: “China needs to shift its focus to water demand management instead of a supply oriented approach if it is going to seriously address the overwhelming pressures on its water supplies.

“China’s current transfer programme is pouring good water after bad: the problems of water-stressed regions aren’t being alleviated and the provinces sharing their water are suffering greatly.”

Prof Guan, professor in climate change economics, together with his colleague, Prof Martin Tillotson of Leeds, published research in 2014 showing 75 per cent of China’s lakes and rivers and 50 per cent of its groundwater supplies are contaminated, the result of urban household consumption, export of goods and services and infrastructure investment.

Prof Tillotson, chair in water management and director of water@leeds, said: “Even allowing for future efficiency gains in agricultural and industrial water consumption, China’s water transfers are likely to be insufficient to offset increased demand due to the effects of economic and population growth.

“A much greater focus needs to be placed on regulating or incentivising reductions in demand-led consumption.”

3 responses to “Water, Water Everywhere, and Not a Drop to Spare

  1. The scarcity of water for China’s growing population and agricultural demands is increasing in severity. In the North the Huang, Huai, and Hai, the three major resources for the entire region, have suffered decreased flow of 15%, 15% and 40% respectively over the past years. The issue is serious, and there are not many readily available solutions. Siberia, in turn, has an overflow of water resources (unhappily all its major flows move North to the Arctic). Moscow has long toyed with the idea of redirecting flow to the South, to provide water to Russia proper and its former dependencies on its border. How Beijing might view such a program is interesting but unknown. The fact is that China will soon suffer crippling shortages of adequate water supply and that it has long considered the Russian Far East territory rich with water supply as having been coerced from China through “unequal treaties,” The circumstances are those of a “water war” long anticipated by analysts.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s not just China that is facing serious water problems. Agriculture in California is under siege because of water shortages. Washington and Oregon will be facing shortages soon due to smaller snow packs. Not to mention Texas and Oklahoma. Whether climate change is man-caused or not, it is happening and we have to take action to deal with it. Note that I say DEAL with it. Tinkering with gas mileage and fighting pipelines won’t help. It’s too late for that. We need to be pumping water from the Columbia River to California and from the Missouri River to Texas, among other things. And we shouldn’t piss off the Canadians. When it gets too warm and/or too dry to raise grain in Kansas and Nebraska, we are going to need grain from Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I remember my favorite professor at college (early ’80s) talking about America’s fresh water challenges, and suggesting we were sitting on a gold mine (I grew up in Milwaukee). He suggested there may come a time when we might see water pipelines from the Great Lakes to the Western and Southwestern states.

      Liked by 1 person

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