China’s Scramble for Water; One Section of Huge Project Halted
The source of the water predicament is China’s own economic success. A bigger economy means more factories and power plants, all prodigious users of water for processing and cooling. Big cities are getting bigger, using more drinking, shower and sewage water. People are eating better, and growing more food requires more water. They crave entertainment, too; the Beijing area has 100 golf courses and a dozen ski resorts with man-made snow.
The result has been a scramble for water that is pitting downstream communities against upstream ones, farmers against factories, and people concerned about the country’s environment against those worried that water shortages might be the mighty Chinese economy’s Achilles’ heel. Unlike oil needs, which can be supplemented with imports, water needs pose a much more intractable threat to China’s rise.
“China is facing two prominent challenges: water shortages and pollution,” said Ma Jun, director of the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, a Beijing-based group. On top of that, “what’s not receiving attention is the destruction of the river ecosystem, which I think will have long-term effects on our water resources.”