Global Water Crisis

Water - the essential ingredient for life on this planet %u2013 is becoming an increasingly scarce resource. According to the World Bank and World Health Organization, 2 billion people lack access to clean water and 1 billion people do not have enough to even meet their daily needs.

Every day an increasing amount of pollution seeps into rivers and lakes making them toxic to humans, and underground aquifers %u2013 our most significant sources of water %u2013 are being depleted at an alarming rate.

By 2050 the number of people on the planet is projected to exceed 9 billion, and if current trends continue more and more useable water will be lost. Making an adequate supply of water available to everyone alive today is a monumental task, and ensuring that there is enough water for all future generations will require an unprecedented level of international cooperation and compassion%u2026

Imminent Water Crisis in India:

Nina Brooks, August 2007


"There will be constant competition over water, between farming families and urban dwellers, environmental conservationists and industrialists, minorities living off natural resources and entrepreneurs seeking to commodify the resources base for commercial gain"

-UNICEF report on Indian water.[1]

Intro

More than two billion people worldwide live in regions facing water scarcity[2] and in India this is a particularly acute crisis. Millions of Indians currently lack access to clean drinking water, and the situation is only getting worse. India%u2019s demand for water is growing at an alarming rate. India currently has the world%u2019s second largest population, which is expected to overtake China%u2019s by 2050 when it reaches a staggering 1.6 billion,[3] putting increase strain on water resources as the number of people grows. A rapidly growing economy and a large agricultural sector stretch India%u2019s supply of water even thinner. Meanwhile, India%u2019s supply of water is rapidly dwindling due primarily to mismanagement of water resources, although over-pumping and pollution are also significant contributors. Climate change is expected to exacerbate the problem by causing erratic and unpredictable weather, which could drastically diminish the supply of water coming from rainfall and glaciers. As demand for potable water starts to outstrip supply by increasing amounts in coming years, India will face a slew of subsequent problems, such as food shortages, intrastate, and international conflict.


India%u2019s water crisis is predominantly a manmade problem. India%u2019s climate is not particularly dry, nor is it lacking in rivers and groundwater. Extremely poor management, unclear laws, government corruption, and industrial and human waste have caused this water supply crunch and rendered what water is available practically useless due to the huge quantity of pollution. In managing water resources, the Indian government must balance competing demands between urban and rural, rich and poor, the economy and the environment. However, because people have triggered this crisis, by changing their actions they have the power to prevent water scarcity from devastating India%u2019s population, agriculture, and economy. This paper is an overview of the issues surrounding India%u2019s water scarcity: demand and supply, management, pollution, impact of climate change, and solutions the Indian government is considering.

I. Demand and Usage

In 2006 between the domestic, agricultural, and industrial sectors, India used approximately 829 billion cubic meters of water every year, which is approximately the size of Lake Erie. By 2050 demand is expected to double and consequently exceed the 1.4 trillion cubic meters of supply. [4]


Figure 1: Water Demand by Sector

India Water Withdrawals

Source: Earth Trends 2001, World Resources Institute

Domestic

India%u2019s 1.1 billion people need access to clean drinking water. The demand for drinking water is divided between the urban and rural populations, and comprises about 4-6% of total water demand.[5] Due to the amenities of typical urban life, such as flush toilets and washing machines, people living in cities tend to lead more water intensive lives. The urban population has doubled over the past 30 years, now representing 30% of India%u2019s total population[6] and is expected to reach 50% of the total population by 2025.[7] Population growth is going to accelerate the water crisis in India, especially as more and more people move into the cities and become part of the middle class. Because the rivers are too polluted to drink and the government is unable to consistently deliver freshwater to the cities, many urban dwellers are turning to groundwater, which is greatly contributing to the depletion of underground aquifers. Rural citizens face a similar crisis. Currently 30% of the rural population lack access to drinking water, and of the 35 states in India, only 7 have full availability of drinking water for rural inhabitants.[8] Most people who live in rural areas demand less water for day-to-day living than people living in cities, and the majority of their water demand comes from agricultural needs.

Agricultural

Despite the recent rapid growth in the services and industrial production, agriculture is still an integral part of India%u2019s economy and society. Between 1947 and 1967 India underwent the Green Revolution, which concentrated on expanding farm yields by double-cropping existing farmland and using seeds with improved genetics.[9] The result was a huge increase in agricultural production, making India one of the world%u2019s biggest exporters of grain. The availability of canal water led farmers to adopt highly profitable, but extremely water intensive crops, such as sugar cane.[10] In addition, India achieved its goal of obtaining food security. The rural economy sustains two-thirds of India's 1.1 billion citizens.[11] Unfortunately, this huge surge in agriculture, required significant water resources for irrigation and accelerated the onset of present water shortages.

India%u2019s agricultural sector currently uses about 90% of total water resources.[12] Irrigated agriculture has been fundamental to economic development, but unfortunately caused groundwater depletion. Due to water pollution in rivers, India draws 80% of its irrigation water from groundwater.[13] As water scarcity becomes a bigger and bigger problem, rural and farming areas will most likely be hit the hardest. Thus far, food security has been one of the highest priorities for politicians, and the large farming lobby has grown accustomed to cheap electricity, which allows extremely fast pumping of groundwater, which is something they are unwilling to give up for the sake of water conservation. If India wants to maintain its level of food security, farmers will have to switch to less water intensive crops. Otherwise India will end up being a net importer of food, which would have massive ramifications for the global price of grain.

Industrial

Water is both an important input for many different manufacturing and industrial sectors and used as a coolant for machines, such as textile machines. Cheap water that can be rapidly pumped from underground aquifers has been a major factor in the success of India%u2019s economic growth. For example, the garment industry in Tirupur, a city in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, was growing faster than anyone thought possible for several decades. By 1990%u2019s, however, the town was running out of water, which is a critical input for dyeing and bleaching.[14] Despite the many benefits from a thriving economy, industrial waste is largely responsible for the high levels of pollutants found in India%u2019s rivers and groundwater. Many corporations end up polluting the very water they later need as an input. According to the Ministry of Water Resources, industrial water use in India stands at about 50 billion cubic meters or nearly 6 per cent of total freshwater abstraction.[15] This demand is expected to increase dramatically in the next decade, given the enormous forecasts of 9% growth for 2007 alone.[16]


II. Supply

Surface water and groundwater are the sources of India%u2019s water supply. Other sources, such as desalination, are negligible because they are not cost effective.

Figure 2: Surface Water, Groundwater Over Time

India Water Availability


















Source: World Bank Report on Water in India
Surface Water
The main rivers, the Ganges, Bramhaputra, Mahanadi, Godavari, Krishna, Kaveri, Indus, Narmada, and Tapti, flow into the Bay of Bengal and Arabian Sea. They can be classified into four groups: Himalayan, coastal, peninsular, and inland drainage basins. The Himalayan rivers, such as the Ganges, are formed by melting snow and glaciers and therefore have a continuous flow throughout the year. The Himalayas contain the largest store of fresh water outside the polar ice caps, and feed seven great Asian rivers.[17] This region receives very heavy rainfall during the monsoon period, causing the rivers to swell and flood. The coastal rivers, the Bramhaputra and the Krishna, especially on the west coast, are short in length with small catchment areas. The peninsular rivers, which include the Mahanadi, Godavari, Krishna, and Kaveri, flow inland and also greatly increase in volume during the monsoon season. Finally, the rivers of the inland drainage basin, such as the Mahanadi and the Godavari, dry out as they drain towards the silt lakes such as the Sambhar, or are lost in the sands. [18]
India receives an average of 4,000 billion cubic meters of rainfall every year. Unfortunately, only 48% of rainfall ends up in India%u2019s rivers. Due to lack of storage and crumbling infrastructure, only 18% can be utilized.[19] Rainfall is confined to the monsoon season, June through September, when India gets, on average, 75% of its total annual precipitation. Once again, due to India%u2019s storage crunch the government is unable to store surplus water for the dry season. Such uneven seasonal distribution of rainfall has not stimulated the development of better capturing and storing infrastructure, making water scarcity an unnecessary yet critical problem.

Groundwater

Groundwater is the major source of drinking water in both urban and rural India. It is also an important source of water for the agricultural and the industrial sectors. India possesses about 432 bcm of groundwater replenished yearly from rain and river drainage, but only 395 bcm are utilizable. Of that 395 bcm, 82% goes to irrigation and agricultural purposes, while only 18% is divided between domestic and industrial.[20] Total static groundwater available is approximately 10,812 bcm.[21]


Groundwater is increasingly being pumped from lower and lower levels and much faster than rainfall is able to replenish it. The average groundwater recharge rates of India%u2019s river basins is 260 m3/day.[22] The Delhi Jal Board, which is responsible for supplying potable water, estimates that water tables are dipping by an average of .4 meters a year.[23] In addition, the human, agricultural, and industrial waste that pollute India%u2019s rivers seep into the ground, thus contaminating the groundwater. Groundwater crisis is not the result of natural factors; it has been caused by human actions. During the past two decades, the water level in several parts of the country has been falling rapidly due to an increase in extraction. The number of wells drilled for irrigation of both food and cash crops have rapidly and indiscriminately increased.[24]


Figure 3: Utilizable water, demand, and available water
India Water Demand and Supply
\s
Source: World Bank Report on Water in India

III. Climate Change

Climate change is exacerbating the depleting supply of water. As the climate warms, glaciers in the Himalayas and the Tibetan Plateau have been melting. According to the IPCC, global temperatures have warmed by .76 Celsius over the last 100 years.[25] This will result in increased flooding initially, especially during the monsoon season when rainfall is already at its heaviest. However, in subsequent years, there will be less and less glacial meltwater to continuously supply India%u2019s rivers. Nearly 70% of discharge to the River Ganges comes from Nepalese snow-fed rivers, which means that if Himalayan glaciers dry up, so could the Ganges.[26] The Ganges has numerous tributary rivers which supply water to hundreds of millions of people across India. Therefore, if the Ganges even partly dried up, it would have drastic consequences for a huge population. The glaciers, which regulate the water supply to the Ganges, Indus, Brahmaputra, Mekong, Thanlwin, Yangtze and Yellow Rivers, are believed to be retreating at a rate of about 33-49ft each year.[27]


Climate change also has an effect on rainfall patterns, but, how it will affect them is still uncertain. Nonetheless, scientists agree that climate change will ultimately make rainfall more erratic and cause unpredictable weather. Many believe the increased average water temperate in oceans, will increase the probability and intensity of monsoons during the summer.[28] As one of the world%u2019s largest emitters of greenhouse gases, India contributes significantly to global warming, but is not required under the Kyoto Protocol to reduce its emissions because it is a developing country. [29] This is yet another regrettable example of how India sacrifices its environment and its future supply of resources for economic growth.

IV. Water Management

The tragedy of India%u2019s water scarcity is that the crisis could have been largely avoided with better water management practices. There has been a distinct lack of attention to water legislation, water conservation, efficiency in water use, water recycling, and infrastructure. Historically water has been viewed as an unlimited resource that did not need to be managed as a scarce commodity or provided as a basic human right. These attitudes are changing in India; there is a growing desire for decentralized management developing, which would allow local municipalities to control water as best needed for their particular region.

Since independence India%u2019s primary goals have been economic growth and food security, completely disregarding water conservation. This has caused serious ramifications being felt today, as many citizens still operate under these principles. Unlike many other developing countries, especially those with acute water scarcity issues such as China, Indian law has virtually no legislation on groundwater. Anyone can extract water: homeowner, farmer or industry as long as the water lies underneath their plot of land.[30] The development and distribution of cheap electricity and electric pumps have triggered rapid pumping of groundwater and subsequent depletion of aquifers. There are approximately 20 million individual wells in India that are contributing to groundwater depletion.[31] The owners of these wells do not have to pay for this water, so there is no incentive to conserve or recycle it; in fact they are incentivized to overdraw resources. Generally, the more water they use, the more they can produce. Industry applies the same logic, and rather than reusing the water used for cooling machines, they dump it back into rivers and canals, along with the pollution it has accumulated. Even Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has warned against over-pumping, but local officials won%u2019t take any action, such as raising electricity tariffs, that would upset the huge farm lobbies.[32] India needs to keep boosting agricultural production in order to feed its growing population, but to do so without jeopardizing the amount of water available, farmers must switch to less water intensive crops.

The central government in India also lacks the ability to store and deliver potable water to its citizens, especially as supply shrinks. There is currently a water storage crunch, because means for storage, such as temple tanks and steep wells, have fallen apart. China is able to store 5 times as much water per person as India[33], making it blatantly clear how poor India%u2019s water management is. The government claims that 9 out of 10 people have access to water. Yet, even if this were factual, it disregards the fact that almost of all of that water is too contaminated to use.[34] None of the 35 Indian cities with a population of more than one million distribute water for more than a few hours per day.[35] The water situation in the capital, New Delhi, is typical of most cities in India, in that New Delhi does not lack water, merely good infrastructure.


New Delhi demands 36 million cubic meters of water per day. The New Delhi Jal Board supplies just over 30 million cubic meters per day, but only 17 million cubic meters actually reach consumers due to infrastructure problems, such as leaking pipes.[36] The government has avoided proper maintenance of pipes and canals, which is now causing major inefficiencies in water use. As New Delhi%u2019s water supply runs through 5,600 miles of pipes, up to 40% leaks out.[37] The Jal Board sends tankers to New Delhi with water that people have to wait in long lines to get, and what they receive is of questionable quality. Rather than fixing the pipelines, the government is falling back on these tankers, which is an expensive and inefficient method of delivering water to its citizens. Despite these feeble attempts, 27% of homes in New Delhi receive tap water for less than 3 hours a day.[38] As a result of the government%u2019s inability to provide adequate water, private water suppliers, which charge exorbitant prices, have spring up and people have begun to dig neighborhood wells, depleting groundwater even further.

V. Pollution


Given that India does not regulate water usage, it should come as no surprise that there is also little regulation on pollution and even less enforcement of what regulations do exist. Millions have been spent on pollution clean-up, but no one knows where it went (most likely into the pockets of corrupt government officials) because no changes have been seen. In 2005, a government audit indicted the Jal Board for having spent $200 million on pollution clean-up achieving essentially no tangible results.[39] A combination of sewage disposal, industrial effluents, chemicals from farm runoffs, arsenic and fluoride has rendered India%u2019s rivers unfit for drinking, irrigation, and even industrial purposes.[40]

New Delhi alone produces 3.6 million cubic meters of sewage every day, but, due to poor management less than half is effectively treated. The remaining untreated waste is dumped into the Yamuna River. New Delhi actually cannot get rid of the sewage it produces because 45% of the population is not connected to the public sewage system.[41] Meanwhile, the quantity of sewage is constantly increasing due to population growth. Those not connected to sewage lines end up dumping their waste into canals, which empty into a storm drain that runs into the Yamuna, dumping all of the waste into the river. When the water reaches downstream cities they have to heavily treat it, which subsequently drives up the cost.

Every river in India is polluted to some degree. The water quality in underground wells violates the desired levels of dissolved oxygen and coliform, the presence of which is one measure of filth, in addition to having high concentrations of toxic metals, fluoride, and nitrates.[42] India%u2019s rivers also have high fluoride content (see Figure 4), beyond the permissible limit of 1.5ppm, which affects 66 million people. The polluted water then seeps into the groundwater and contaminates agricultural products when used for irrigation. Over 21% of transmissible diseases in India are related to unsafe water. [43] Millions of the poorest are affected by preventable diseases caused by inadequate water supply and sanitation.

Figure 4: Fluoride Pollution

India Flouride Pollution

Source: WHO



Solutions

An immediate solution to India%u2019s water crisis is to change water management practices by regulating usage with effective legislation. However, as previously mentioned, there is significant opposition to raising electricity tariffs, and there would most likely be even more resistance to enacting tariffs on water itself.

Another proposed solution to the water crisis is the privatization of water. Proponents claim that a privatized water supply would prevent waste, improve efficiency, and encourage innovation. The World Bank supports a policy of privatized water in India, claiming that water could be supplied to all of India%u2019s inhabitants, but at a higher cost.[44] Many people vehemently oppose this plan arguing that it will not only exacerbate poverty, but also that privatization does not have a good track record around the world.

India is also considering large-scale engineering projects, similar to those adopted in China, such as the South-to-North Water Diversion Project. However, as India is the world%u2019s largest democracy, such projects have been extremely difficult to pass because they are controversial and have stirred lots of debate and much resistance. The most talked about project is the $112 billion Interlinking of Rivers project. The ILR was approved by the president in 2002 and is due to be completed in 2016. This project will link all 37 rivers by thousands of miles of canals and dozens of large dams.[45] This project is intended to increase the amount of water available for irrigation and would add 34,000mw of hydropower to the national pool.[46] Civil society organizations and traditional water managers have dismissed the ILR because it has the potential for stirring international conflicts, by reducing the water that flows to bordering countries, such as Bangladesh. In addition, ILR is expensive, will most likely face the same fate as India%u2019s dams: broken and inefficient due to lack of maintenance and reinvestment.


The Indian government is already trying to get states to start rainwater harvesting in order to more efficiently tap into the huge quantity of monsoon rain. Collection of rainwater recharges water tables, allows easier accessibility to water resources, and increases availability for irrigation throughout the year leads to improved village.[47]


Conclusion

India is facing a looming water crisis that has implications not only for its 1.1 billion people, but for the entire globe. India%u2019s demand for water is growing even as it stretches its supplies. Water infrastructure is crumbling, preventing the government from being able to supply drinking water to its citizens. Pollution is rampant due to unfettered economic growth, poor waste management laws and practices. Although many analysts believe that demand will outstrip supply by 2020[48], there is still hope for India. Water scarcity in India is predominantly a manmade problem; therefore if India makes significant changes in the way it thinks about water and manages its resources soon, it could ward off, or at least mollify, the impending crisis. India has had success with water infrastructure development, which allowed the country to take advantage of its water resources in the first place and achieve food security. These projects did enable the expansion of urban and industrial sectors and increased availability of safe drinking water, but then they were allowed to dilapidate. India needs to make water supply a national priority the way it has made food security and economic growth priorities in the past. India%u2019s need for a comprehensive management program is so severe because of its rapidly depleting water supply, environmental problems, and growing population. If the country continues with a business as usual mentality the consequences will be drastic. India will see a sharp decrease in agricultural production, which will negate all of the previous efforts at food security. India will become a net importer of grain, which will have a huge effect of global food prices, as well as the global supply of food. A rise in food prices will aggravate the already widespread poverty when people have to spend larger portions of their income on food. In addition to devastating the agricultural sector of India%u2019s economy, the water crisis will have a big effect on India%u2019s industrial sector, possibly stagnating many industries. Finally, India could become the stage for major international water wars because so many rivers that originate in India supply water to other countries. India has the power to avoid this dark future if people take action immediately: start conserving water, begin to harvest rainwater, treat human, agricultural, and industrial waste effectively, and regulate how much water can be drawn out of the ground.

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Impending Water Crisis in China:

Nina Brooks

%u201CWater is the most ubiquitously needed resource. It is needed for industry, for agriculture and by every living being. We face an energy crisis but we can work on alternative and renewable energy resources. When it comes to the water crisis, there is no alternative for water." -- Professor Liu Changming, Director of the United Research Centre for Water Problems (URCWP)[1]


Introduction

71% of the Earth is covered in water but only 2.5% is freshwater. 70% of that freshwater is trapped in polar ice caps or underground, leaving approximately 1% in easy to access rivers and lakes.[2] Fresh water is an extremely undervalued and scarce resource. Currently 1.1 billion people lack access to safe, clean drinking water globally[3] and this number could increase to 2.3 billion by 2025.[4]

China has less than 7% of the world%u2019s arable land with which to feed its enormous population of 1.3 billion people.[5] Growing water scarcity is one of the most pressing issues currently facing China, given its burgeoning industry and huge population. Against the backdrop of rapid population and economic growth China%u2019s water resources are getting scarcer. As China continues along its path of industrialization and urbanization, more and more of the available water will be rendered useless for drinking, irrigation, and hydro-power purposes.

Growing water pressures are coming from the following factors: highly uneven distribution of water and agriculture between the North and the South, urbanization, population increase, degradation of the environment and rapidly rising demands for energy, irrigation, and drinking water. There are clear implications for both China and the world if China cannot sustainably manage its resources. In order to broadly understand the Chinese water scarcity issue, it is necessary to understand the available water supply, the sources of demand, the factors contributing to the developing crisis, and the policy solutions being implemented to mitigate the problems.

Water Supply

China%u2019s water supply comes from glaciers, surface water, and groundwater. However, it is not the lack of water, but the uneven distribution of water that makes China%u2019s current situation so dire. China is in the unique position of being both water rich and water poor. Water is extremely scarce in the North but abundant in the South.


1.1 Glaciers

The Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau, located in Western China, is comprised of over 35,000 glaciers with an area of approximately 50,000 km2.[6] Seasonal melting typically keeps China%u2019s rivers flowing during the dry season. This seasonal behavior is unfortunately being disrupted by warming due to climate change (to be discussed later). The Qinghai-Tibetan plateau is the origin of two of China%u2019s most important rivers, the Yangtze and Mekong, as well as rivers that run through other countries such as the Indus, Mekong, Salween, and Tarim Rivers.


1.2 Surface Water

Total annual runoff for China%u2019s rivers in 2005 was 2.7 trillion m3, ranking 6th in the world for total runoff.[7] China%u2019s surface water supply is replenished by glacier melting and precipitation. As of 2006, both China%u2019s lakes and rivers were replenished by annual precipitation of 620 mm.[8]

The Yangtze River is the longest river in China and carries more water than any other river in China,[9] with an annual runoff accounting for 52% of the national total.[10] The Yellow River, considered to the cradle of Chinese civilization, is China%u2019s second largest river with an annual runoff that comprises only 2% of the total runoff. The Yangtze, Yellow, Heilong, Pearl, Liao, Hai and Huai rivers flow east and empty into the Pacific Ocean.


The lower reaches of the Yellow, Huai, and Hai rivers supply the North China Plain, which is home to some of the country's largest urban and industrial concentrations and most intensive irrigated agriculture, such as Beijing and Tianjin.[11] The North China Plain contains 65% of the country%u2019s agricultural land[12] and therefore relies on vast irrigation systems and underground aquifers to support its agriculture.


China also possesses approximately 2,800 lakes, which cover over 80,000 square kilometers.[13] China%u2019s freshwater lakes, including the Tai Hu, Chao Hu, and Dian Chi, home to numerous species of aquatic plants and animals are not only an important source of water, but are also a critical food resource. China used to be home to 4,077 lakes, half of which have disappeared over the past several decades due to increased demand, consumption, global warming, and conversion of lakes to rice paddies.[14]


Figure 1: China%u2019s Rivers and Lakes


ChinaRiver

Source: http://depts.washington.edu

1.3 Groundwater

As rivers flow across the plains, water seeps through the ground to become groundwater. Groundwater provides potable water for nearly 70% of China%u2019s population and irrigation for some 40% of its agricultural land.[15] Underground aquifers are especially important for supplying the arid North with water for irrigation. Almost half of Northern China%u2019s water comes from groundwater aquifers (See Figure 1.2).[16] Of the irrigated land in Northern China approximately 60% is irrigated with groundwater.



\s ChinaGround












Sources of Demand


China%u2019s demand for water is divided between domestic, agricultural, and industrial use. More and more water is being allocated to industrial and urban demand than ever before (See Figure 2.1). The challenge now facing the Chinese government is how to meet the soaring water needs of its swelling urban population and industrial sector without compromising either its agriculture sector or food security.


2.1 Domestic Use

China%u2019s population is currently 1.3 billion people making it the most populous in the world. The population is expected to swell to 1.5 billion by 2030, according to UN demographers.[19] The increase in domestic water use will be determined by population growth and the amount of per capita water use. The latter is positively correlated to the level of income and the rate of urbanization; high income, urban dwelling, people tend to lead more water intensive lives. In addition, as affluence increases, people tend to introduce more meat, fruits, and vegetables into their diets. It takes significantly more water to produce these luxury agriculture goods than to produce grain, which will exact a serious toll on future supply.


The migration from rural to urban areas contributes partly to the increase in demand. By 2030 it is estimated that over 50% of China%u2019s population will be living in cities.[20] As China's population urbanizes, hundreds of millions will change their primary water source from the village well to water intensive indoor plumbing with showers and flush toilets. [21] The World Bank estimated that between 2000 and 2010, China%u2019s urban water demand will increase by 60%[22], making water scarcity a serious threat.

2.2 Agricultural Use

Within the agricultural sector water is used for farmland irrigation, forestry, breeding livestock and maintaining fisheries.[23] Currently 67% of China's water is used for agriculture, a sector responsible for only 13.2% of GDP. In the agricultural sector, demand for irrigation water is currently roughly 400 billion m3. It is expected to reach 665 billion m3 in 2030.[24]


Rice, wheat, maize and cotton are the four most water-demanding crops in Southeast China. Rice accounts for more than 90 % of water use despite occupying only 70 % of land area.[25] China%u2019s grain production has improved dramatically over the last 50 years due in large part to the expansion of irrigation, but many observers are beginning to question whether irrigated agriculture is sustainable given China%u2019s growing water scarcity. Doubts about China%u2019s ability to continue to produce high agricultural yields have only increased in recent years as China%u2019s agricultural production has fallen.


The dry North China Plain includes many of the country%u2019s most important agricultural provinces, such as Hebei and Shandong. The North China Plain is supplied by the Haihe, Launhe, and Yellow Rivers. There are approximately 20 billion m3 per year of surface water available in this region.[26] Over the last few decades farmers have been relying more and more heavily on groundwater aquifer resources, as rivers dry up before reaching the North China Plain. Unfortunately, this has led to the overexploitation and rapid decline of groundwater resources, which poses serious consequences for the future of China%u2019s water supply.



2.3 Industrial Use

China%u2019s economy has expanded rapidly over the past few decades. In 2006 the World Bank estimated that the economy would grow approximately 9.6% in 2007. Industrial demand for water already makes up 22% of China%u2019s total demand and the World Bank estimates this demand will increase by 62% from 2000 to 2010. The major industrial water consumers are metallurgy, timber processing, paper and pulp, petroleum and chemical industries.[27]


Industrial output is increasingly much more profitable than agricultural output, meaning that overtime greater water resources will be transferred to industrial needs. A thousand tons of water can produce one ton of wheat worth $200, whereas the same amount of water used in industry yields an estimated $14,000 of output.[28] As water becomes an increasingly scarce and more expensive resource, the agricultural sector will lose out to the industrial sector because industry is simply much more profitable.


As agriculture loses out to industry, China will be forced to become a net importer of food, rather than a net exporter, which is a serious departure from the current position. Such a dramatic change has dangerous implications for world grain prices. Furthermore, as more water is being used for industry, which is responsible for a great deal of pollution, China%u2019s dwindling water sources will become more heavily polluted.


ChinaWaterUse

Factors Contributing to Water Crisis


The main factors contributing to the impending water crisis in China are increasing demand, specifically domestic and industrial, inefficient use of water resources, pollution, and climate change.


Each of these factors adds a layer of complexity onto the issue of water in China, but feedback mechanisms also exist amplifying the effects of all of these aspects. As China%u2019s surface water becomes polluted to the extent that it cannot be used for industrial purposes, China will be forced to overexploit its underground aquifers beyond their ability to recharge. As the climate warms, lowering precipitation rates in China, the aquifers will recharge at much slower paces.


3.1 Increasing Demand

China%u2019s population is expected to reach 1.5 million by 2030, with almost half living in cities. Due to amenities such as indoor plumbing, urban populations generally live more water intensive lives than rural people. The evidence of water shortages is overwhelming. Experts estimate that by 2030 per capita water resources will drop to 1,760 m3, which is barely above 1,700 m3 considered to be then benchmark for water crisis.[30] Farmers are pumping groundwater from deeper and deeper levels thereby exploiting underground aquifers beyond the possibility of replenishment. %u201CThe U.S. embassy in Beijing reports that wheat farmers in some areas are now pumping from a depth of 300 meters, or nearly 1,000 feet. Pumping water from this far deep in the earth raises pumping costs so high that farmers are often forced to abandon irrigation and return to less productive dryland farming.%u201D[31] Much of this increased demand and consumption clearly comes from China%u2019s fast growing economy. China%u2019s economy is expected to continue growing at around 9% per year, which will subsequently increase industrial demand for water, the affluence of the population, the migration to cities by people looking for better jobs, per capita water use %u2013 all of which portend a serious supply shortage.


3.2 Inefficient Use

Management of China%u2019s water resources has been extremely inefficient, leading to extensive water loss. Water is highly subsidized by the central government, making it practically free for users thereby leaving no incentive to save water. The general attitude towards water use is to use as much as possible as fast as possible. China%u2019s irrigation system, choice of water intensive crops, obsession with dams, and overexploitation of surface and groundwater resources have all contributed to the highly inefficient use and management of water resources.

The irrigation system is %u201Cless than 50% efficient which can mean that 8.5 % of the world%u2019s water is being wasted.%u201D[32] Much of the water in open channel irrigation systems leaks back into the ground before it can be utilized, although unfortunately not fast enough to replenish groundwater resources. According to China%u2019s Ministry of Construction, inefficient irrigation has led to a loss of 400 million cubic meters of water every year.[33]

In addition to an inefficient irrigation system, many crops that China grows are impractically water-intensive, such as wheat and rice. Many will have to leave grain production altogether, or at least stop planting of rice, wheat and other water-intensive crops. For decades farmers and politicians have ignored all warnings and done practically nothing to fix the system.

The government also relies on dams to manage the water resources and to reach its stated goal of becoming the largest producer of hydroelectric power in the world.[34] Not only are many of these dams poorly constructed, but there has been a move away from the use of large dams after the 2000 World Commission on Dams issued a critical report. The report announced that many %u201Clarge dam projects had fallen far short of their physical and economic targets, resulting in huge losses of forest lands, wildlife habitat, and aquatic biodiversity. All existing dams should be reviewed and no more should be built without the agreement of the people likely to be affected by them.%u201D[35] Dams destroy fish runs, flood agriculture lands, displace local communities, dry up and pollute downstream wetlands, and are extremely inefficient because significant amounts of water are lost due to evaporation. In spite of this report and the resulting shift by many developed countries away from dams, China now openly boasts of owning over half of the world%u2019s dams.[36]

China is also overexploiting both its surface water and groundwater resources significantly faster than they are being replenished by rain. According to the Ministry of Water Resources, the utilization rate of water resources is around 60% for a number of rivers, including the Huai, Liao, and Yellow, and as high as 90% for the Hai River. These numbers are all notably above international standards, which are set with the intention of conserving water, of 30-40%.[37]

As rivers become increasingly polluted and run dry and lakes disappear with escalating pace, China will be forced to rely even more heavily on its underground aquifers, unfortunately using up today what should be tomorrow%u2019s water. Although increasing the efficiency of water use will not solve the underlying problem of water scarcity in China, it will buy them considerable time to tackle the bigger aspects of this issue.


3.3 Pollution

China%u2019s rapid economic growth has brought with it steady increase in the production of industrial wastewater. The high levels of pollution are seen by many as the result of lax environmental codes that are rarely enforced and easily avoided by bribing corrupt officials. Pollution of China%u2019s surface water has reached a distressing point at which much of the water is unsuitable for drinking, irrigation, industrial use, or even electricity generation in dams. According to the World Resources Institute, about half of China's population consumes drinking water contaminated with waste that exceeds the applicable maximum permissible levels. Liver and stomach cancers in China are caused in part by water pollution. In addition, pollution is causing the collapse of numerous aquatic species, biodiversity loss, and many illnesses. [38]


As polluted water leaks into the ground due to inefficient irrigation systems, it puts toxins into the ground, affecting fertility of agricultural lands and resulting in food with high levels of toxins. %u201CAccording to the SEPA [State Environmental Protection Administration], 70 per cent of China's rivers and lakes are polluted to some degree; the water of 28 per cent is unsuitable even for irrigation. Moreover, 90 per cent of the groundwater in the cities is too polluted to drink. As a result, several hundred million Chinese lack access to safe water.%u201D[39]


There are approximately 21,000 chemical companies along the Yangtze and Yellow river, as well as numerous paper, steel, textile, and power plants, which are responsible for a considerable amount of pollution. In 2006 alone, over 26 billion tons of wastewater was dumped into the Yangtze River.[40] The Yellow and Yangtze Rivers are the main source of water for many important agricultural, industrial, and urban provinces and therefore expose large percentages of the population to polluted water. Analysts contend that 80% of the water flowing in China%u2019s rivers is unable to sustain fish life,[41] which is another way, in addition to grain shortages, that water scarcity will affect China%u2019s food supply.


A recent example of the magnitude to which pollution can affect China%u2019s supply of water is the chemical spill in the Jilin province in 2005. According to the International Herald Tribune, %u201Can explosion on Nov. 13 at a plant run by the China National Petroleum Corp., known as CNPC, in Jilin Province, 380 kilometers, or 235 miles, upriver from Harbin, spewed an estimated 100 tons of benzene compounds into the river.%u201D[42] A 50 mile stretch of polluted water ran down the river Songhuan, threatening the main source of freshwater for the nine million inhabitants of Harbin, the biggest city in Jilin province. The price of drinking water doubled within hours, people immediately started migrating, and there were local fights for water.[43] This event is a microcosm for what could happen on a very large-scale in China if the central government, corporations, and individuals continue to disregard environmental codes.



3.4 Climate Change

Climate change poses a serious threat to ecosystems around the world. Many aspects of climate change and its role in the water scarcity issue for China are still ambiguous and being studied. However, global warming has had an undeniable effect on the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau, which is the source of water for the Yangtze and Yellow Rivers. MSNBC reported in 2006 that, %u201Cglaciers covering China%u2019s Qinghai-Tibet plateau are shrinking by 7 % a year due to global warming and the environmental consequences may be dire.%u201D[44] According to the IPCC, global temperatures have warmed by .76 Celsius over the last 100 years.[45] The glacier%u2019s seasonal melting keeps the rivers flowing during the dry season, but as the glacier retreats by more and more every year, there will be less water during the dry season. In addition, the melting could cause massive flooding, followed by severe drought and an ultimate long-term decrease in water supply that is irreplaceable. This warming has not only caused glacial retreat but also the drying up of numerous lakes that feed the region%u2019s rivers.


According to a study on glaciers released by the World Wildlife Fund in 2005, %u201Cover the past 15 years, river and lake areas have been shrinking. Lake shrinkage mainly occurred in the Yangtze River source region, a total decrease of 114.81 km2, accounting for 10.64% of the total lake area in the Yangtze River source region and for 58.4% of the total decreased area in the combined region. The source lake for the Yellow River source lake has decreased by 5.28 %.%u201D[46] The decrease in rainfall is also causing desertification across China, increasing the percentage of land that is unusable for agriculture. It is still unclear whether global warming will increase or decrease precipitation in the long run for China, but the past several years have seen significant drops in rainfall across several provinces. The Ministry of Water Resources reported drops in precipitation in the Songliao Plain, Yellow River Basin, Huai River Basin, and the Hai, River Basin, by at least 10% and in some provinces by almost 40%.[47] The average yearly river runoff is likely to decrease in already arid Northern provinces while it may increase in the already water-abundant southern provinces. This could cause an increase of flood and drought events due to climate change.[48]


Warming also causes higher levels of evaporation, which is decreasing the level of water available in China%u2019s numerous dams, resulting in reduced river flows, and desertification. Over the past decade, Chinese deserts expanded at a rate of 950 square miles a year.[49] As the world%u2019s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, as of 2006,[50] China will hopefully take a more active role in reducing its contribution to climate change if not simply for the sake of the environment, but for the sake of its people and economy.

Consequences of Water Scarcity


If China continues to overexploit its scarce water resources a serious water crisis looms in its future, which could even set off consequences for the rest of the world. As the North continues to rely more heavily on water that comes from the South, regionally conflicts over water could erupt. In addition, competition between sectors for water supply could develop into something more violent and cause serious civil unrest. The Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau is the source of rivers that reach India, Bangladesh, Burma, Bhutan, Nepal, Cambodia, Pakistan, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam. When China begins to run out of water, it may try to hoard the remaining water supply for its own people, thereby diverting water that would have reached these countries in South and Southeast Asia. Many of these countries, specifically India, are already facing their own severe water crises, which will only be exacerbated if China diverts rivers that would have delivered much needed water.

Having extensively contaminated its own major rivers through unbridled industrialization, China now threatens the ecological viability of river systems tied to South and Southeast Asia in its bid to meet its thirst for water and energy. Both diverting water that would have flowed to other countries and allowing increasingly polluted water to run through other countries has already angered neighboring countries and will continue to do so. Political relations could be further strained by massive migration of people from regions facing severe water shortages that could spill over into other countries. In fact, many analysts argue that the oil wars of the 20th century will be replaced by water wars in the 21st century.

Polluted water has been linked to the spread of numerous diseases, including cancers. Increasing levels of pollution could lead to more serious and widespread health problems, dehydration, and the increased prevalence of cancer in Chinese people. Because China%u2019s rivers run through so many different countries in the region, disease could rapidly spread to large numbers of people.

China%u2019s food supply is incredibly vulnerable to water shortages. Rapid industrialization inevitably leads to a heavy loss of cropland, which can override any increase in land productivity and lead to an absolute decline in food production. China%u2019s grain harvests have already fallen short of demand for the past several years, causing China to import their grain. According to Lester Brown of the Worldwatch Institute, consumption outstrips production by over 45 million tons a year. It is very possible that in the n

Water - the essential ingredient for life on this planet – is becoming an increasingly scarce resource. According to the World Bank and World Health Organization, 2 billion people lack access to clean water and 1 billion people do not have enough to even meet their daily needs.

Every day an increasing amount of pollution seeps into rivers and lakes making them toxic to humans, and underground aquifers – our most significant sources of water – are being depleted at an alarming rate.

By 2050 the number of people on the planet is projected to exceed 9 billion, and if current trends continue more and more useable water will be lost. Making an adequate supply of water available to everyone alive today is a monumental task, and ensuring that there is enough water for all future generations will require an unprecedented level of international cooperation and compassion…

Imminent Water Crisis in India:

Nina Brooks, August 2007


"There will be constant competition over water, between farming families and urban dwellers, environmental conservationists and industrialists, minorities living off natural resources and entrepreneurs seeking to commodify the resources base for commercial gain"

-UNICEF report on Indian water.[1]

Intro

More than two billion people worldwide live in regions facing water scarcity[2] and in India this is a particularly acute crisis. Millions of Indians currently lack access to clean drinking water, and the situation is only getting worse. India’s demand for water is growing at an alarming rate. India currently has the world’s second largest population, which is expected to overtake China’s by 2050 when it reaches a staggering 1.6 billion,[3] putting increase strain on water resources as the number of people grows. A rapidly growing economy and a large agricultural sector stretch India’s supply of water even thinner. Meanwhile, India’s supply of water is rapidly dwindling due primarily to mismanagement of water resources, although over-pumping and pollution are also significant contributors. Climate change is expected to exacerbate the problem by causing erratic and unpredictable weather, which could drastically diminish the supply of water coming from rainfall and glaciers. As demand for potable water starts to outstrip supply by increasing amounts in coming years, India will face a slew of subsequent problems, such as food shortages, intrastate, and international conflict.


India’s water crisis is predominantly a manmade problem. India’s climate is not particularly dry, nor is it lacking in rivers and groundwater. Extremely poor management, unclear laws, government corruption, and industrial and human waste have caused this water supply crunch and rendered what water is available practically useless due to the huge quantity of pollution. In managing water resources, the Indian government must balance competing demands between urban and rural, rich and poor, the economy and the environment. However, because people have triggered this crisis, by changing their actions they have the power to prevent water scarcity from devastating India’s population, agriculture, and economy. This paper is an overview of the issues surrounding India’s water scarcity: demand and supply, management, pollution, impact of climate change, and solutions the Indian government is considering.

I. Demand and Usage

In 2006 between the domestic, agricultural, and industrial sectors, India used approximately 829 billion cubic meters of water every year, which is approximately the size of Lake Erie. By 2050 demand is expected to double and consequently exceed the 1.4 trillion cubic meters of supply. [4]


Figure 1: Water Demand by Sector

India Water Withdrawals

Source: Earth Trends 2001, World Resources Institute

Domestic

India’s 1.1 billion people need access to clean drinking water. The demand for drinking water is divided between the urban and rural populations, and comprises about 4-6% of total water demand.[5] Due to the amenities of typical urban life, such as flush toilets and washing machines, people living in cities tend to lead more water intensive lives. The urban population has doubled over the past 30 years, now representing 30% of India’s total population[6] and is expected to reach 50% of the total population by 2025.[7] Population growth is going to accelerate the water crisis in India, especially as more and more people move into the cities and become part of the middle class. Because the rivers are too polluted to drink and the government is unable to consistently deliver freshwater to the cities, many urban dwellers are turning to groundwater, which is greatly contributing to the depletion of underground aquifers. Rural citizens face a similar crisis. Currently 30% of the rural population lack access to drinking water, and of the 35 states in India, only 7 have full availability of drinking water for rural inhabitants.[8] Most people who live in rural areas demand less water for day-to-day living than people living in cities, and the majority of their water demand comes from agricultural needs.

Agricultural

Despite the recent rapid growth in the services and industrial production, agriculture is still an integral part of India’s economy and society. Between 1947 and 1967 India underwent the Green Revolution, which concentrated on expanding farm yields by double-cropping existing farmland and using seeds with improved genetics.[9] The result was a huge increase in agricultural production, making India one of the world’s biggest exporters of grain. The availability of canal water led farmers to adopt highly profitable, but extremely water intensive crops, such as sugar cane.[10] In addition, India achieved its goal of obtaining food security. The rural economy sustains two-thirds of India's 1.1 billion citizens.[11] Unfortunately, this huge surge in agriculture, required significant water resources for irrigation and accelerated the onset of present water shortages.

India’s agricultural sector currently uses about 90% of total water resources.[12] Irrigated agriculture has been fundamental to economic development, but unfortunately caused groundwater depletion. Due to water pollution in rivers, India draws 80% of its irrigation water from groundwater.[13] As water scarcity becomes a bigger and bigger problem, rural and farming areas will most likely be hit the hardest. Thus far, food security has been one of the highest priorities for politicians, and the large farming lobby has grown accustomed to cheap electricity, which allows extremely fast pumping of groundwater, which is something they are unwilling to give up for the sake of water conservation. If India wants to maintain its level of food security, farmers will have to switch to less water intensive crops. Otherwise India will end up being a net importer of food, which would have massive ramifications for the global price of grain.

Industrial

Water is both an important input for many different manufacturing and industrial sectors and used as a coolant for machines, such as textile machines. Cheap water that can be rapidly pumped from underground aquifers has been a major factor in the success of India’s economic growth. For example, the garment industry in Tirupur, a city in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, was growing faster than anyone thought possible for several decades. By 1990’s, however, the town was running out of water, which is a critical input for dyeing and bleaching.[14] Despite the many benefits from a thriving economy, industrial waste is largely responsible for the high levels of pollutants found in India’s rivers and groundwater. Many corporations end up polluting the very water they later need as an input. According to the Ministry of Water Resources, industrial water use in India stands at about 50 billion cubic meters or nearly 6 per cent of total freshwater abstraction.[15] This demand is expected to increase dramatically in the next decade, given the enormous forecasts of 9% growth for 2007 alone.[16]


II. Supply

Surface water and groundwater are the sources of India’s water supply. Other sources, such as desalination, are negligible because they are not cost effective.

Figure 2: Surface Water, Groundwater Over Time

India Water Availability


















Source: World Bank Report on Water in India
Surface Water
The main rivers, the Ganges, Bramhaputra, Mahanadi, Godavari, Krishna, Kaveri, Indus, Narmada, and Tapti, flow into the Bay of Bengal and Arabian Sea. They can be classified into four groups: Himalayan, coastal, peninsular, and inland drainage basins. The Himalayan rivers, such as the Ganges, are formed by melting snow and glaciers and therefore have a continuous flow throughout the year. The Himalayas contain the largest store of fresh water outside the polar ice caps, and feed seven great Asian rivers.[17] This region receives very heavy rainfall during the monsoon period, causing the rivers to swell and flood. The coastal rivers, the Bramhaputra and the Krishna, especially on the west coast, are short in length with small catchment areas. The peninsular rivers, which include the Mahanadi, Godavari, Krishna, and Kaveri, flow inland and also greatly increase in volume during the monsoon season. Finally, the rivers of the inland drainage basin, such as the Mahanadi and the Godavari, dry out as they drain towards the silt lakes such as the Sambhar, or are lost in the sands. [18]
India receives an average of 4,000 billion cubic meters of rainfall every year. Unfortunately, only 48% of rainfall ends up in India’s rivers. Due to lack of storage and crumbling infrastructure, only 18% can be utilized.[19] Rainfall is confined to the monsoon season, June through September, when India gets, on average, 75% of its total annual precipitation. Once again, due to India’s storage crunch the government is unable to store surplus water for the dry season. Such uneven seasonal distribution of rainfall has not stimulated the development of better capturing and storing infrastructure, making water scarcity an unnecessary yet critical problem.

Groundwater

Groundwater is the major source of drinking water in both urban and rural India. It is also an important source of water for the agricultural and the industrial sectors. India possesses about 432 bcm of groundwater replenished yearly from rain and river drainage, but only 395 bcm are utilizable. Of that 395 bcm, 82% goes to irrigation and agricultural purposes, while only 18% is divided between domestic and industrial.[20] Total static groundwater available is approximately 10,812 bcm.[21]


Groundwater is increasingly being pumped from lower and lower levels and much faster than rainfall is able to replenish it. The average groundwater recharge rates of India’s river basins is 260 m3/day.[22] The Delhi Jal Board, which is responsible for supplying potable water, estimates that water tables are dipping by an average of .4 meters a year.[23] In addition, the human, agricultural, and industrial waste that pollute India’s rivers seep into the ground, thus contaminating the groundwater. Groundwater crisis is not the result of natural factors; it has been caused by human actions. During the past two decades, the water level in several parts of the country has been falling rapidly due to an increase in extraction. The number of wells drilled for irrigation of both food and cash crops have rapidly and indiscriminately increased.[24]


Figure 3: Utilizable water, demand, and available water
India Water Demand and Supply
\s
Source: World Bank Report on Water in India

III. Climate Change

Climate change is exacerbating the depleting supply of water. As the climate warms, glaciers in the Himalayas and the Tibetan Plateau have been melting. According to the IPCC, global temperatures have warmed by .76 Celsius over the last 100 years.[25] This will result in increased flooding initially, especially during the monsoon season when rainfall is already at its heaviest. However, in subsequent years, there will be less and less glacial meltwater to continuously supply India’s rivers. Nearly 70% of discharge to the River Ganges comes from Nepalese snow-fed rivers, which means that if Himalayan glaciers dry up, so could the Ganges.[26] The Ganges has numerous tributary rivers which supply water to hundreds of millions of people across India. Therefore, if the Ganges even partly dried up, it would have drastic consequences for a huge population. The glaciers, which regulate the water supply to the Ganges, Indus, Brahmaputra, Mekong, Thanlwin, Yangtze and Yellow Rivers, are believed to be retreating at a rate of about 33-49ft each year.[27]


Climate change also has an effect on rainfall patterns, but, how it will affect them is still uncertain. Nonetheless, scientists agree that climate change will ultimately make rainfall more erratic and cause unpredictable weather. Many believe the increased average water temperate in oceans, will increase the probability and intensity of monsoons during the summer.[28] As one of the world’s largest emitters of greenhouse gases, India contributes significantly to global warming, but is not required under the Kyoto Protocol to reduce its emissions because it is a developing country. [29] This is yet another regrettable example of how India sacrifices its environment and its future supply of resources for economic growth.

IV. Water Management

The tragedy of India’s water scarcity is that the crisis could have been largely avoided with better water management practices. There has been a distinct lack of attention to water legislation, water conservation, efficiency in water use, water recycling, and infrastructure. Historically water has been viewed as an unlimited resource that did not need to be managed as a scarce commodity or provided as a basic human right. These attitudes are changing in India; there is a growing desire for decentralized management developing, which would allow local municipalities to control water as best needed for their particular region.

Since independence India’s primary goals have been economic growth and food security, completely disregarding water conservation. This has caused serious ramifications being felt today, as many citizens still operate under these principles. Unlike many other developing countries, especially those with acute water scarcity issues such as China, Indian law has virtually no legislation on groundwater. Anyone can extract water: homeowner, farmer or industry as long as the water lies underneath their plot of land.[30] The development and distribution of cheap electricity and electric pumps have triggered rapid pumping of groundwater and subsequent depletion of aquifers. There are approximately 20 million individual wells in India that are contributing to groundwater depletion.[31] The owners of these wells do not have to pay for this water, so there is no incentive to conserve or recycle it; in fact they are incentivized to overdraw resources. Generally, the more water they use, the more they can produce. Industry applies the same logic, and rather than reusing the water used for cooling machines, they dump it back into rivers and canals, along with the pollution it has accumulated. Even Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has warned against over-pumping, but local officials won’t take any action, such as raising electricity tariffs, that would upset the huge farm lobbies.[32] India needs to keep boosting agricultural production in order to feed its growing population, but to do so without jeopardizing the amount of water available, farmers must switch to less water intensive crops.

The central government in India also lacks the ability to store and deliver potable water to its citizens, especially as supply shrinks. There is currently a water storage crunch, because means for storage, such as temple tanks and steep wells, have fallen apart. China is able to store 5 times as much water per person as India[33], making it blatantly clear how poor India’s water management is. The government claims that 9 out of 10 people have access to water. Yet, even if this were factual, it disregards the fact that almost of all of that water is too contaminated to use.[34] None of the 35 Indian cities with a population of more than one million distribute water for more than a few hours per day.[35] The water situation in the capital, New Delhi, is typical of most cities in India, in that New Delhi does not lack water, merely good infrastructure.


New Delhi demands 36 million cubic meters of water per day. The New Delhi Jal Board supplies just over 30 million cubic meters per day, but only 17 million cubic meters actually reach consumers due to infrastructure problems, such as leaking pipes.[36] The government has avoided proper maintenance of pipes and canals, which is now causing major inefficiencies in water use. As New Delhi’s water supply runs through 5,600 miles of pipes, up to 40% leaks out.[37] The Jal Board sends tankers to New Delhi with water that people have to wait in long lines to get, and what they receive is of questionable quality. Rather than fixing the pipelines, the government is falling back on these tankers, which is an expensive and inefficient method of delivering water to its citizens. Despite these feeble attempts, 27% of homes in New Delhi receive tap water for less than 3 hours a day.[38] As a result of the government’s inability to provide adequate water, private water suppliers, which charge exorbitant prices, have spring up and people have begun to dig neighborhood wells, depleting groundwater even further.

V. Pollution


Given that India does not regulate water usage, it should come as no surprise that there is also little regulation on pollution and even less enforcement of what regulations do exist. Millions have been spent on pollution clean-up, but no one knows where it went (most likely into the pockets of corrupt government officials) because no changes have been seen. In 2005, a government audit indicted the Jal Board for having spent $200 million on pollution clean-up achieving essentially no tangible results.[39] A combination of sewage disposal, industrial effluents, chemicals from farm runoffs, arsenic and fluoride has rendered India’s rivers unfit for drinking, irrigation, and even industrial purposes.[40]

New Delhi alone produces 3.6 million cubic meters of sewage every day, but, due to poor management less than half is effectively treated. The remaining untreated waste is dumped into the Yamuna River. New Delhi actually cannot get rid of the sewage it produces because 45% of the population is not connected to the public sewage system.[41] Meanwhile, the quantity of sewage is constantly increasing due to population growth. Those not connected to sewage lines end up dumping their waste into canals, which empty into a storm drain that runs into the Yamuna, dumping all of the waste into the river. When the water reaches downstream cities they have to heavily treat it, which subsequently drives up the cost.

Every river in India is polluted to some degree. The water quality in underground wells violates the desired levels of dissolved oxygen and coliform, the presence of which is one measure of filth, in addition to having high concentrations of toxic metals, fluoride, and nitrates.[42] India’s rivers also have high fluoride content (see Figure 4), beyond the permissible limit of 1.5ppm, which affects 66 million people. The polluted water then seeps into the groundwater and contaminates agricultural products when used for irrigation. Over 21% of transmissible diseases in India are related to unsafe water. [43] Millions of the poorest are affected by preventable diseases caused by inadequate water supply and sanitation.

Figure 4: Fluoride Pollution

India Flouride Pollution

Source: WHO



Solutions

An immediate solution to India’s water crisis is to change water management practices by regulating usage with effective legislation. However, as previously mentioned, there is significant opposition to raising electricity tariffs, and there would most likely be even more resistance to enacting tariffs on water itself.

Another proposed solution to the water crisis is the privatization of water. Proponents claim that a privatized water supply would prevent waste, improve efficiency, and encourage innovation. The World Bank supports a policy of privatized water in India, claiming that water could be supplied to all of India’s inhabitants, but at a higher cost.[44] Many people vehemently oppose this plan arguing that it will not only exacerbate poverty, but also that privatization does not have a good track record around the world.

India is also considering large-scale engineering projects, similar to those adopted in China, such as the South-to-North Water Diversion Project. However, as India is the world’s largest democracy, such projects have been extremely difficult to pass because they are controversial and have stirred lots of debate and much resistance. The most talked about project is the $112 billion Interlinking of Rivers project. The ILR was approved by the president in 2002 and is due to be completed in 2016. This project will link all 37 rivers by thousands of miles of canals and dozens of large dams.[45] This project is intended to increase the amount of water available for irrigation and would add 34,000mw of hydropower to the national pool.[46] Civil society organizations and traditional water managers have dismissed the ILR because it has the potential for stirring international conflicts, by reducing the water that flows to bordering countries, such as Bangladesh. In addition, ILR is expensive, will most likely face the same fate as India’s dams: broken and inefficient due to lack of maintenance and reinvestment.


The Indian government is already trying to get states to start rainwater harvesting in order to more efficiently tap into the huge quantity of monsoon rain. Collection of rainwater recharges water tables, allows easier accessibility to water resources, and increases availability for irrigation throughout the year leads to improved village.[47]


Conclusion

India is facing a looming water crisis that has implications not only for its 1.1 billion people, but for the entire globe. India’s demand for water is growing even as it stretches its supplies. Water infrastructure is crumbling, preventing the government from being able to supply drinking water to its citizens. Pollution is rampant due to unfettered economic growth, poor waste management laws and practices. Although many analysts believe that demand will outstrip supply by 2020[48], there is still hope for India. Water scarcity in India is predominantly a manmade problem; therefore if India makes significant changes in the way it thinks about water and manages its resources soon, it could ward off, or at least mollify, the impending crisis. India has had success with water infrastructure development, which allowed the country to take advantage of its water resources in the first place and achieve food security. These projects did enable the expansion of urban and industrial sectors and increased availability of safe drinking water, but then they were allowed to dilapidate. India needs to make water supply a national priority the way it has made food security and economic growth priorities in the past. India’s need for a comprehensive management program is so severe because of its rapidly depleting water supply, environmental problems, and growing population. If the country continues with a business as usual mentality the consequences will be drastic. India will see a sharp decrease in agricultural production, which will negate all of the previous efforts at food security. India will become a net importer of grain, which will have a huge effect of global food prices, as well as the global supply of food. A rise in food prices will aggravate the already widespread poverty when people have to spend larger portions of their income on food. In addition to devastating the agricultural sector of India’s economy, the water crisis will have a big effect on India’s industrial sector, possibly stagnating many industries. Finally, India could become the stage for major international water wars because so many rivers that originate in India supply water to other countries. India has the power to avoid this dark future if people take action immediately: start conserving water, begin to harvest rainwater, treat human, agricultural, and industrial waste effectively, and regulate how much water can be drawn out of the ground.

This article may be copied or reprinted for noncommercial purposes as long as proper citation standards are observed.

Impending Water Crisis in China:

Nina Brooks

“Water is the most ubiquitously needed resource. It is needed for industry, for agriculture and by every living being. We face an energy crisis but we can work on alternative and renewable energy resources. When it comes to the water crisis, there is no alternative for water." -- Professor Liu Changming, Director of the United Research Centre for Water Problems (URCWP)[1]


Introduction

71% of the Earth is covered in water but only 2.5% is freshwater. 70% of that freshwater is trapped in polar ice caps or underground, leaving approximately 1% in easy to access rivers and lakes.[2] Fresh water is an extremely undervalued and scarce resource. Currently 1.1 billion people lack access to safe, clean drinking water globally[3] and this number could increase to 2.3 billion by 2025.[4]

China has less than 7% of the world’s arable land with which to feed its enormous population of 1.3 billion people.[5] Growing water scarcity is one of the most pressing issues currently facing China, given its burgeoning industry and huge population. Against the backdrop of rapid population and economic growth China’s water resources are getting scarcer. As China continues along its path of industrialization and urbanization, more and more of the available water will be rendered useless for drinking, irrigation, and hydro-power purposes.

Growing water pressures are coming from the following factors: highly uneven distribution of water and agriculture between the North and the South, urbanization, population increase, degradation of the environment and rapidly rising demands for energy, irrigation, and drinking water. There are clear implications for both China and the world if China cannot sustainably manage its resources. In order to broadly understand the Chinese water scarcity issue, it is necessary to understand the available water supply, the sources of demand, the factors contributing to the developing crisis, and the policy solutions being implemented to mitigate the problems.

Water Supply

China’s water supply comes from glaciers, surface water, and groundwater. However, it is not the lack of water, but the uneven distribution of water that makes China’s current situation so dire. China is in the unique position of being both water rich and water poor. Water is extremely scarce in the North but abundant in the South.


1.1 Glaciers

The Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau, located in Western China, is comprised of over 35,000 glaciers with an area of approximately 50,000 km2.[6] Seasonal melting typically keeps China’s rivers flowing during the dry season. This seasonal behavior is unfortunately being disrupted by warming due to climate change (to be discussed later). The Qinghai-Tibetan plateau is the origin of two of China’s most important rivers, the Yangtze and Mekong, as well as rivers that run through other countries such as the Indus, Mekong, Salween, and Tarim Rivers.


1.2 Surface Water

Total annual runoff for China’s rivers in 2005 was 2.7 trillion m3, ranking 6th in the world for total runoff.[7] China’s surface water supply is replenished by glacier melting and precipitation. As of 2006, both China’s lakes and rivers were replenished by annual precipitation of 620 mm.[8]

The Yangtze River is the longest river in China and carries more water than any other river in China,[9] with an annual runoff accounting for 52% of the national total.[10] The Yellow River, considered to the cradle of Chinese civilization, is China’s second largest river with an annual runoff that comprises only 2% of the total runoff. The Yangtze, Yellow, Heilong, Pearl, Liao, Hai and Huai rivers flow east and empty into the Pacific Ocean.


The lower reaches of the Yellow, Huai, and Hai rivers supply the North China Plain, which is home to some of the country's largest urban and industrial concentrations and most intensive irrigated agriculture, such as Beijing and Tianjin.[11] The North China Plain contains 65% of the country’s agricultural land[12] and therefore relies on vast irrigation systems and underground aquifers to support its agriculture.


China also possesses approximately 2,800 lakes, which cover over 80,000 square kilometers.[13] China’s freshwater lakes, including the Tai Hu, Chao Hu, and Dian Chi, home to numerous species of aquatic plants and animals are not only an important source of water, but are also a critical food resource. China used to be home to 4,077 lakes, half of which have disappeared over the past several decades due to increased demand, consumption, global warming, and conversion of lakes to rice paddies.[14]


Figure 1: China’s Rivers and Lakes


ChinaRiver

Source: http://depts.washington.edu

1.3 Groundwater

As rivers flow across the plains, water seeps through the ground to become groundwater. Groundwater provides potable water for nearly 70% of China’s population and irrigation for some 40% of its agricultural land.[15] Underground aquifers are especially important for supplying the arid North with water for irrigation. Almost half of Northern China’s water comes from groundwater aquifers (See Figure 1.2).[16] Of the irrigated land in Northern China approximately 60% is irrigated with groundwater.



\s ChinaGround












Sources of Demand


China’s demand for water is divided between domestic, agricultural, and industrial use. More and more water is being allocated to industrial and urban demand than ever before (See Figure 2.1). The challenge now facing the Chinese government is how to meet the soaring water needs of its swelling urban population and industrial sector without compromising either its agriculture sector or food security.


2.1 Domestic Use

China’s population is currently 1.3 billion people making it the most populous in the world. The population is expected to swell to 1.5 billion by 2030, according to UN demographers.[19] The increase in domestic water use will be determined by population growth and the amount of per capita water use. The latter is positively correlated to the level of income and the rate of urbanization; high income, urban dwelling, people tend to lead more water intensive lives. In addition, as affluence increases, people tend to introduce more meat, fruits, and vegetables into their diets. It takes significantly more water to produce these luxury agriculture goods than to produce grain, which will exact a serious toll on future supply.


The migration from rural to urban areas contributes partly to the increase in demand. By 2030 it is estimated that over 50% of China’s population will be living in cities.[20] As China's population urbanizes, hundreds of millions will change their primary water source from the village well to water intensive indoor plumbing with showers and flush toilets. [21] The World Bank estimated that between 2000 and 2010, China’s urban water demand will increase by 60%[22], making water scarcity a serious threat.

2.2 Agricultural Use

Within the agricultural sector water is used for farmland irrigation, forestry, breeding livestock and maintaining fisheries.[23] Currently 67% of China's water is used for agriculture, a sector responsible for only 13.2% of GDP. In the agricultural sector, demand for irrigation water is currently roughly 400 billion m3. It is expected to reach 665 billion m3 in 2030.[24]


Rice, wheat, maize and cotton are the four most water-demanding crops in Southeast China. Rice accounts for more than 90 % of water use despite occupying only 70 % of land area.[25] China’s grain production has improved dramatically over the last 50 years due in large part to the expansion of irrigation, but many observers are beginning to question whether irrigated agriculture is sustainable given China’s growing water scarcity. Doubts about China’s ability to continue to produce high agricultural yields have only increased in recent years as China’s agricultural production has fallen.


The dry North China Plain includes many of the country’s most important agricultural provinces, such as Hebei and Shandong. The North China Plain is supplied by the Haihe, Launhe, and Yellow Rivers. There are approximately 20 billion m3 per year of surface water available in this region.[26] Over the last few decades farmers have been relying more and more heavily on groundwater aquifer resources, as rivers dry up before reaching the North China Plain. Unfortunately, this has led to the overexploitation and rapid decline of groundwater resources, which poses serious consequences for the future of China’s water supply.



2.3 Industrial Use

China’s economy has expanded rapidly over the past few decades. In 2006 the World Bank estimated that the economy would grow approximately 9.6% in 2007. Industrial demand for water already makes up 22% of China’s total demand and the World Bank estimates this demand will increase by 62% from 2000 to 2010. The major industrial water consumers are metallurgy, timber processing, paper and pulp, petroleum and chemical industries.[27]


Industrial output is increasingly much more profitable than agricultural output, meaning that overtime greater water resources will be transferred to industrial needs. A thousand tons of water can produce one ton of wheat worth $200, whereas the same amount of water used in industry yields an estimated $14,000 of output.[28] As water becomes an increasingly scarce and more expensive resource, the agricultural sector will lose out to the industrial sector because industry is simply much more profitable.


As agriculture loses out to industry, China will be forced to become a net importer of food, rather than a net exporter, which is a serious departure from the current position. Such a dramatic change has dangerous implications for world grain prices. Furthermore, as more water is being used for industry, which is responsible for a great deal of pollution, China’s dwindling water sources will become more heavily polluted.


ChinaWaterUse

Factors Contributing to Water Crisis


The main factors contributing to the impending water crisis in China are increasing demand, specifically domestic and industrial, inefficient use of water resources, pollution, and climate change.


Each of these factors adds a layer of complexity onto the issue of water in China, but feedback mechanisms also exist amplifying the effects of all of these aspects. As China’s surface water becomes polluted to the extent that it cannot be used for industrial purposes, China will be forced to overexploit its underground aquifers beyond their ability to recharge. As the climate warms, lowering precipitation rates in China, the aquifers will recharge at much slower paces.


3.1 Increasing Demand

China’s population is expected to reach 1.5 million by 2030, with almost half living in cities. Due to amenities such as indoor plumbing, urban populations generally live more water intensive lives than rural people. The evidence of water shortages is overwhelming. Experts estimate that by 2030 per capita water resources will drop to 1,760 m3, which is barely above 1,700 m3 considered to be then benchmark for water crisis.[30] Farmers are pumping groundwater from deeper and deeper levels thereby exploiting underground aquifers beyond the possibility of replenishment. “The U.S. embassy in Beijing reports that wheat farmers in some areas are now pumping from a depth of 300 meters, or nearly 1,000 feet. Pumping water from this far deep in the earth raises pumping costs so high that farmers are often forced to abandon irrigation and return to less productive dryland farming.”[31] Much of this increased demand and consumption clearly comes from China’s fast growing economy. China’s economy is expected to continue growing at around 9% per year, which will subsequently increase industrial demand for water, the affluence of the population, the migration to cities by people looking for better jobs, per capita water use – all of which portend a serious supply shortage.


3.2 Inefficient Use

Management of China’s water resources has been extremely inefficient, leading to extensive water loss. Water is highly subsidized by the central government, making it practically free for users thereby leaving no incentive to save water. The general attitude towards water use is to use as much as possible as fast as possible. China’s irrigation system, choice of water intensive crops, obsession with dams, and overexploitation of surface and groundwater resources have all contributed to the highly inefficient use and management of water resources.

The irrigation system is “less than 50% efficient which can mean that 8.5 % of the world’s water is being wasted.”[32] Much of the water in open channel irrigation systems leaks back into the ground before it can be utilized, although unfortunately not fast enough to replenish groundwater resources. According to China’s Ministry of Construction, inefficient irrigation has led to a loss of 400 million cubic meters of water every year.[33]

In addition to an inefficient irrigation system, many crops that China grows are impractically water-intensive, such as wheat and rice. Many will have to leave grain production altogether, or at least stop planting of rice, wheat and other water-intensive crops. For decades farmers and politicians have ignored all warnings and done practically nothing to fix the system.

The government also relies on dams to manage the water resources and to reach its stated goal of becoming the largest producer of hydroelectric power in the world.[34] Not only are many of these dams poorly constructed, but there has been a move away from the use of large dams after the 2000 World Commission on Dams issued a critical report. The report announced that many “large dam projects had fallen far short of their physical and economic targets, resulting in huge losses of forest lands, wildlife habitat, and aquatic biodiversity. All existing dams should be reviewed and no more should be built without the agreement of the people likely to be affected by them.”[35] Dams destroy fish runs, flood agriculture lands, displace local communities, dry up and pollute downstream wetlands, and are extremely inefficient because significant amounts of water are lost due to evaporation. In spite of this report and the resulting shift by many developed countries away from dams, China now openly boasts of owning over half of the world’s dams.[36]

China is also overexploiting both its surface water and groundwater resources significantly faster than they are being replenished by rain. According to the Ministry of Water Resources, the utilization rate of water resources is around 60% for a number of rivers, including the Huai, Liao, and Yellow, and as high as 90% for the Hai River. These numbers are all notably above international standards, which are set with the intention of conserving water, of 30-40%.[37]

As rivers become increasingly polluted and run dry and lakes disappear with escalating pace, China will be forced to rely even more heavily on its underground aquifers, unfortunately using up today what should be tomorrow’s water. Although increasing the efficiency of water use will not solve the underlying problem of water scarcity in China, it will buy them considerable time to tackle the bigger aspects of this issue.


3.3 Pollution

China’s rapid economic growth has brought with it steady increase in the production of industrial wastewater. The high levels of pollution are seen by many as the result of lax environmental codes that are rarely enforced and easily avoided by bribing corrupt officials. Pollution of China’s surface water has reached a distressing point at which much of the water is unsuitable for drinking, irrigation, industrial use, or even electricity generation in dams. According to the World Resources Institute, about half of China's population consumes drinking water contaminated with waste that exceeds the applicable maximum permissible levels. Liver and stomach cancers in China are caused in part by water pollution. In addition, pollution is causing the collapse of numerous aquatic species, biodiversity loss, and many illnesses. [38]


As polluted water leaks into the ground due to inefficient irrigation systems, it puts toxins into the ground, affecting fertility of agricultural lands and resulting in food with high levels of toxins. “According to the SEPA [State Environmental Protection Administration], 70 per cent of China's rivers and lakes are polluted to some degree; the water of 28 per cent is unsuitable even for irrigation. Moreover, 90 per cent of the groundwater in the cities is too polluted to drink. As a result, several hundred million Chinese lack access to safe water.”[39]


There are approximately 21,000 chemical companies along the Yangtze and Yellow river, as well as numerous paper, steel, textile, and power plants, which are responsible for a considerable amount of pollution. In 2006 alone, over 26 billion tons of wastewater was dumped into the Yangtze River.[40] The Yellow and Yangtze Rivers are the main source of water for many important agricultural, industrial, and urban provinces and therefore expose large percentages of the population to polluted water. Analysts contend that 80% of the water flowing in China’s rivers is unable to sustain fish life,[41] which is another way, in addition to grain shortages, that water scarcity will affect China’s food supply.


A recent example of the magnitude to which pollution can affect China’s supply of water is the chemical spill in the Jilin province in 2005. According to the International Herald Tribune, “an explosion on Nov. 13 at a plant run by the China National Petroleum Corp., known as CNPC, in Jilin Province, 380 kilometers, or 235 miles, upriver from Harbin, spewed an estimated 100 tons of benzene compounds into the river.”[42] A 50 mile stretch of polluted water ran down the river Songhuan, threatening the main source of freshwater for the nine million inhabitants of Harbin, the biggest city in Jilin province. The price of drinking water doubled within hours, people immediately started migrating, and there were local fights for water.[43] This event is a microcosm for what could happen on a very large-scale in China if the central government, corporations, and individuals continue to disregard environmental codes.



3.4 Climate Change

Climate change poses a serious threat to ecosystems around the world. Many aspects of climate change and its role in the water scarcity issue for China are still ambiguous and being studied. However, global warming has had an undeniable effect on the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau, which is the source of water for the Yangtze and Yellow Rivers. MSNBC reported in 2006 that, “glaciers covering China’s Qinghai-Tibet plateau are shrinking by 7 % a year due to global warming and the environmental consequences may be dire.”[44] According to the IPCC, global temperatures have warmed by .76 Celsius over the last 100 years.[45] The glacier’s seasonal melting keeps the rivers flowing during the dry season, but as the glacier retreats by more and more every year, there will be less water during the dry season. In addition, the melting could cause massive flooding, followed by severe drought and an ultimate long-term decrease in water supply that is irreplaceable. This warming has not only caused glacial retreat but also the drying up of numerous lakes that feed the region’s rivers.


According to a study on glaciers released by the World Wildlife Fund in 2005, “over the past 15 years, river and lake areas have been shrinking. Lake shrinkage mainly occurred in the Yangtze River source region, a total decrease of 114.81 km2, accounting for 10.64% of the total lake area in the Yangtze River source region and for 58.4% of the total decreased area in the combined region. The source lake for the Yellow River source lake has decreased by 5.28 %.”[46] The decrease in rainfall is also causing desertification across China, increasing the percentage of land that is unusable for agriculture. It is still unclear whether global warming will increase or decrease precipitation in the long run for China, but the past several years have seen significant drops in rainfall across several provinces. The Ministry of Water Resources reported drops in precipitation in the Songliao Plain, Yellow River Basin, Huai River Basin, and the Hai, River Basin, by at least 10% and in some provinces by almost 40%.[47] The average yearly river runoff is likely to decrease in already arid Northern provinces while it may increase in the already water-abundant southern provinces. This could cause an increase of flood and drought events due to climate change.[48]


Warming also causes higher levels of evaporation, which is decreasing the level of water available in China’s numerous dams, resulting in reduced river flows, and desertification. Over the past decade, Chinese deserts expanded at a rate of 950 square miles a year.[49] As the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, as of 2006,[50] China will hopefully take a more active role in reducing its contribution to climate change if not simply for the sake of the environment, but for the sake of its people and economy.

Consequences of Water Scarcity


If China continues to overexploit its scarce water resources a serious water crisis looms in its future, which could even set off consequences for the rest of the world. As the North continues to rely more heavily on water that comes from the South, regionally conflicts over water could erupt. In addition, competition between sectors for water supply could develop into something more violent and cause serious civil unrest. The Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau is the source of rivers that reach India, Bangladesh, Burma, Bhutan, Nepal, Cambodia, Pakistan, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam. When China begins to run out of water, it may try to hoard the remaining water supply for its own people, thereby diverting water that would have reached these countries in South and Southeast Asia. Many of these countries, specifically India, are already facing their own severe water crises, which will only be exacerbated if China diverts rivers that would have delivered much needed water.

Having extensively contaminated its own major rivers through unbridled industrialization, China now threatens the ecological viability of river systems tied to South and Southeast Asia in its bid to meet its thirst for water and energy. Both diverting water that would have flowed to other countries and allowing increasingly polluted water to run through other countries has already angered neighboring countries and will continue to do so. Political relations could be further strained by massive migration of people from regions facing severe water shortages that could spill over into other countries. In fact, many analysts argue that the oil wars of the 20th century will be replaced by water wars in the 21st century.

Polluted water has been linked to the spread of numerous diseases, including cancers. Increasing levels of pollution could lead to more serious and widespread health problems, dehydration, and the increased prevalence of cancer in Chinese people. Because China’s rivers run through so many different countries in the region, disease could rapidly spread to large numbers of people.

China’s food supply is incredibly vulnerable to water shortages. Rapid industrialization inevitably leads to a heavy loss of cropland, which can override any increase in land productivity and lead to an absolute decline in food production. China’s grain harvests have already fallen short of demand for the past several years, causing China to import their grain. According to Lester Brown of the Worldwatch Institute, consumption outstrips production by over 45 million tons a year. It is very possible that in the near future China will become the largest importer of agricultural goods, which could shock the world’s grain markets and trigger higher food prices around the world.


Possible Water Management Solutions


5.1 Three Gorges Dam

The idea for the Three Gorges Dam, first proposed by Dr. Sun Yat-sen in 1919, is currently on the road to completion. The Three Gorges Dam, China’s most ambitious dam project, is on the Yangtze River. It is one and a half miles wide, more than 600 feet high, and will create a reservoir hundreds of feet deep and nearly 400 miles long.[51] The dam is intended to be a symbol of China’s power and prestige. The purpose of the Three Gorges Dam is to solve the flooding issues that have plagued China throughout its history, to allow large ships to sail directly to the interior, and to generate enough energy

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