Stopping the Yellow River from running dry this year will be a major task for water resource authorities, after experts warned that far less water will flow into the river in the first half of this year.
According to experts' predictions, the water flow into the river's mainstream in the first seven months of this year will be much less compared with previous years, and probably the lowest since 1950.
It is estimated that the water flow will be 5.5 billion square meters less than 1997, when the river experienced its most serious drought.
The Yellow River Conservancy Commission, based in Zhengzhou in Central China's Henan Province, managed to successfully balance demand and supply by allocating the limited water resources last year, but it may face its toughest job yet this year, said commission officials.
The Yellow River is called the "mother river'' because it is the major water resource for northwestern and northern China.
The river used to be a major source of flooding. However, since 1980, consecutive years of drought and increasing demand for water from regions along the river has resulted in a huge reduction of surface flow for lengthy periods almost every year.
Shandong Province in East China is one of the victims that suffer the most. Figures indicate that the province now lacks 8.1 billion square meters of water, while it only has reserves totaling 3.4 billion square meters.
Meanwhile, the country's northwestern region, which the river runs through, continues to suffer from water shortages.
The water problem is becoming more acute because economic development has heavily increased water demand.
During the past decade, many regions in the upper and middle sections of the river, including Inner Mongolia and Ningxia Hui autonomous regions and Henan Province, have invested huge sum of money into projects introducing Yellow River water into local regions for agricultural irrigation and other purposes.
A failure to cut down on water consumption is another reason.
In Shandong Province, only three cities -- Qingdao, Weihai and Yantai -- have been equipped with water conservancy facilities.
So far, the downstreams of the Yellow River still run into the ocean, thanks to the allocation of water resources.
In the coming days, the river will face the problem of melting ice as temperatures increase. According to a China News Service report, part of the river running through the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region has seen melting ice and a river course several meters wide.
(China Daily February 11, 2003)