Officials and experts are appealing to the whole country to save water and make it a priority in national economic development and daily life.
A symposium was held during yesterday's World Water Day in Beijing, to highlight the concerns about water's potential impact on the nation and its people.
Officials and experts warned that the country's ever-growing population might cause a water crisis by 2030.
An official made it clear that by then, national water per capita would be down from the present 2,200 cubic meters per year only a quarter of the world average to less than 1,700 cubic meters.
"It will worsen by then without effective solutions to lower rates of water utilization and stop the serious waste of this resource," Hu Siyi, vice-minister of water resources said.
The only way out, he and other attendants believe, is to press towards a water-saving society across the country through an overhaul in the management and administration of water resources.
To secure sustainability in economic growth, China must improve its water efficiency, Hu said.
"We are drafting a national program on building a water-saving society during 2006-10," he said. "It is the first of its type China has ever made for a resource-conserving and environment-friendly society."
The government has set major targets to meet this goal by reducing 30 percent of water consumption per unit of industrial added value in five years, experts say.
Meaning, over the next five years, water consumed for each 10,000 yuan (US$1,233) of the value added for industrial products will be cut from its current 160 cubic meters, to less than 115 cubic meters.
In rural areas the efficiency for water used in irrigation will be raised from 45 percent last year, to 50 percent by 2010. Farming irrigation is now using more than 60 percent of the country's total water supply each year, due to outdated facilities and poor management.
To help millions of people living in the countryside enjoy a better life, a plan will also be introduced to provide them with clean drinking water.
Compared to cities, water safety still remains a chronic issue affecting more than two-thirds of the country's rural population.
More than 300 million people in rural areas cannot drink clean water. Many are also afflicted with various diseases from drinking water that contains too much fluorine, arsenic, sodium sulfate or bitter salt.
According to water authorities, China will lower the population suffering from water shortages to 100 million by 2010 and ensure safe drinking water for everyone by 2020.
(China Daily March 23, 2006)