Chinese experts warn that by 2030 when China's population reaches 1.6 billion, per capita water resources will drop to 1,760 cubic meters -- perilously close to 1,700 cu m, the internationally recognized benchmark for water shortages.
Li Rui, head of the Soil Conservation Institute of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), said China's water consumption will peak by 2030 and if no effective measures are taken, the country is likely to suffer a serious water crisis in the future.
Water resources are unevenly distributed in China, with northern parts of the country deficient in water, and southern parts rich in the essential element.
The areas south of the Yangtze River, China's longest, which account for only 36.5 percent of the country's total territory, have 80.9 percent of its total water resources. However the areas north of the Yangtze, which make up 63.5 percent of China, possess only 19.1 percent of total water resources.
Dr. Feng Hao of the Soil Conservation Institute said he believes that for some time north China has been suffering a serious water shortage.
Statistics show that the combined area of the three valleys of the Yellow, Haihe and Huaihe rivers account for 13.4 percent of the country's total territory. Arable land, population, and gross domestic product (GDP) of the three river valleys make up 39 percent, 35 percent, and 32 percent respectively of the national totals. But water resources in the three river valleys account for only 7.7 percent of the national total.
Per capita water resource in the three valleys stands at 500 cum, so there are areas where the water shortage is most serious in the country.
Liu Zhenbang, a water conservationist, said that along with the worsening water crisis, many rural and urban areas north of the Yellow River have run into difficulties by relying on over exploiting underground water resources to sustain their social and economic development.
Li Rui echoes Liu's view.
"North China is now using underground water formed 10,000 years ago," said Li, warning that over exploitation of underground water has led to subsidence and cracks in the ground in some areas.
The picture shows that farmer Qiao Sanshi sits by a water cellar at his courtyard in Hequ County in northwest China's Shanxi Province June 19, 2001. Some 5,100 such cellars for collecting rain in the drought frequently hit county has alleviated the shortage of water.
(Xinhua News Agency June 6, 2002)