If you ask any environmentalist in China what the country’s principal issue is, the answer is always: water. China is becoming drier every year—its fresh water reserves declined 13% from 2000 to 2009 (Cho, 2011). It is estimated that every year China has a water supply shortfall of 40 billion cubic meters (Lu and Liao 1, 2011). The question is, why does China have such a serious problem with water?
One of the major causes of water scarcity in China is its climate. If you divide China geographically into north and south by the Yangtze River—which runs roughly from Chongqing to Shanghai—80% of the rainfall falls in the south while 20% of the rainfall falls in the north (Cho, 2011). This could be a major issue because while the rainfalls are distributed unevenly around the country, the populations on both sides are at an even split. On top of that, the two main sectors of water use—industry and agriculture—are both focused on the north China plain. The water availability per capita in China is only one tenth of the UN standard. This is only the beginning.
“Global climate change could further exacerbate existing problems over water security, water supply and farming irrigation” said Chen Lei, the Minister of Water Resources in China (qtd. in Lu and Liao 1, 2011). Climate change speeds up the melting of glaciers in the Tibetan Plateau, which affects the Yangtze, Mekong and Indus Rivers. It also means warming temperatures and changing precipitation patterns, which are directly linked to droughts and increasing desertification. In 2010, the drought in the Southwest of China’s Yunnan Province was described as the worst since the 1950s. The average rainfall fell down 21% from the previous years. According to Yunnan Provincial Meteorological Bureau, abnormal atmospheric conditions in recent years have made the situation worse (L. Li, Y. Li and Guo, 2012). Desertification is also increasing. Over the last 50 years, 24,000 villages in the North and West China were abandoned because of desertification (Brown, 2005). In Ningxia, Northwest China, many people simply struggle to survive in the waterless and infertile environment. According to Xinhua News Agency, 28% of China’s territory turned to desert. The expanding Gobi desert is now only 150 miles from Beijing, which is the heart of China (Cho, 2011). The impact of climate change on water resources has become a growing concern for the country’s water sector.
Another growing concern of the volatile state of China’s water resources is water pollution of ground water and surface water. As the world’s second largest economy country, China’s rapid economic development has brought up with it steady increase in GDP as well as the production of industrial wastewater. Over the last three decades, water pollution has been penetrating coastal and inland water bodies, along with surface and groundwater. Rivers and lakes are largely polluted by the ever-increasing industrial wastewater, unprocessed sewage and...