The Minister of Water Resources Wang Shucheng said on Monday that the country would face an average annual water shortage of 40 billion cubic meters if it stopped over-tapping groundwater.
Wang made the remarks in a report on water resources economizing, protection and utilization to the top legislature, the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC), which is in session December 25-29.
More than 400 of China’s 669 cities are facing water shortages, and an average of 20 million hectares of farmland are hit by drought every year, he said.
Water pollution is also severe, as just 38.1 percent of river water is drinkable. In 2003, the country discharged 68 billion tons of sewage, double the amount in 1980.
Wang said 31 out of 52 major lakes have suffered severe pollution and that the safety of nearly 300 million rural citizens' drinking water cannot be guaranteed.
Total lake area has shrunk by 15 percent from that in the early 1950's, and the total area of wetland by 26 percent.
"Although problems and challenges exist, China's water resources are still able to support the country's sustainable development, as long as we prevent water pollution, fully economize and utilize water resources reasonably," said Wang.
(Xinhua News Agency December 28, 2004)