The current drought, considered the worst in Northern China in at least half a century, is crippling not only the country’s best wheat farmland, but also the wells that provide clean water to industry and to millions of people.
In the hamlet of Qiaobei in China’s wheat belt, a local farmer, Zheng Songxian, scrapes out a living growing winter wheat on a vest-pocket plot, a third of an acre carved out of a rocky hillside. He might have been expected to celebrate being offered the chance to till new land this winter. He did not.
Normally, the new land he was offered lies under more than 20 feet of water, part of the Luhun Reservoir in Henan Province. But this winter, Luhun has lost most of its water. And what was once lake bottom has become just another field of winter wheat, stunted for want of rain.