What China is doing to Supply Water to its People

December 19, 2018

“Unlike food, the maximum time an individual can go without water seems to be a week. That estimate would certainly be shorter in difficult conditions, like broiling heat.” — Independent.co.uk

China has often been criticized by environmentalists in the United States for its massive projects to supply water to its people. The criticism focuses on water pollution and damage to the environment. But with 1.4 billion people and growing, China has no choice, because it has been recognized as one of the 13 lowest water-availability countries in the world.

China’s Grand Canal

China has a long history of moving water and goods on water from one part of the country to another, and it started in 468 BC with the building of the Grand Canal. Britannica.com says, “Some 1,100 miles (1,800 km) in length, it is the world’s longest man-made waterway, though, strictly speaking, not all of it is a canal. It was built to enable successive Chinese regimes to transport surplus grain from the agriculturally rich Yangtze(Chang) and Huai river valleys to feed the capital cities and large standing armies in northern China.”

In the 19th century, “the use of the canal as the major supply line to Beijing was abandoned, and the canal gradually fell into disrepair in its northern sections.”

“New work (on the canal) was begun in 1958 to restore the whole system … The canal is also used to divert water from the Yangtze to northern Jiangsu province for irrigation, making possible double cropping of rice.”

China’s Dams

In addition, China has built more large dams than any country in the world, including the world’s largest – the Three Gorges Dam. Today there are more than 87,000 dams in China. China has over 23,000 large dams. The US is the second most dammed country with some 9,200 large dams, followed by India, Japan, and Brazil.

The World’s Largest Water Diversion Infrastructure is in China

Then there’s the World’s Largest Water Diversion Plan Won’t Quench China’s Thirst. “With an excess of rain in the south and not enough in the north, China’s solution is as simple as it was expensive: Build three massive aqueducts to divert the water for an estimated cost of more than 500 billion yuan ($76 billion).

“The result is the world’s most ambitious water transfer program, the South-to-North Water Diversion project. … It is a stunning engineering feat. Some 11 billion cubic meters of water has traversed the 1,432-km-long waterway, supplying factories, businesses and 53 million residents.”

China is also developing alternative water resources to tackle water conflict, including wastewater recycling, household-level rainwater harvesting and seawater desalination. With the rapid development of seawater desalination technology, desalinated seawater is playing a more important role in addressing the water shortage issue in China (Zhang et al. 2005; Zheng et al. 2014).

China’s Desalination Industry

The Journal of Water Reuse & Desalination reports, “By the end of 2015, there were 139 seawater desalination plants put into operation in China.”

Worldwide, desalination plants produce over 3.5 billion gallons of potable water a day, and according to the Chinese government, desalinated seawater is expected to contribute 16 percent to 24 percent of water supply in Chinese coastal areas in the near future, with total daily capacity expected to reach 660 million to 795 gallons by 2020. That’s almost 23-percent of the 3.5 billion gallons of water produced worldwide from desalination plants.

What about the rest of the world? After all, don’t we all need water?

Water Project.org reports, “India’s water crisis is often attributed to lack of government planning, increased corporate privatization, industrial and human waste and government corruption. In addition, water scarcity in India is expected to worsen as the overall population is expected to increase to 1.6 billion by year 2050.”

For the United States, Business Insider says, “California isn’t the only state with water problems. Americans tend to take it for granted that when we open a tap, water will come out.

“Western states have been dealing with water problems for a while, but they won’t be alone for long.

“As drought, flooding, and climate change restrict America’s water supply, demands from population growth and energy production look set to increase, according to a report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office.”

Business insider also says, “The water crisis is even worse in many other countries, especially those without good infrastructure to get water from rivers and aquifers. The UN estimates a fifth of the world’s population lives in an area where water is scarce, and another fourth of the world’s people don’t have access to water because countries lack the infrastructure to distribute it.”

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

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