Fears of a water shortage are gripping residents along the middle and lower reaches of the Yellow River following admissions by officials that current levels of use could not be supported.
The Yellow River Water Resource Committee, which co-ordinates usage of the river water, has urged local governments involved to drastically reduce their water consumption.
Chen Weida, a committee official, said consumption by industry and farmers must fall to protect basic drinking water supplies for people and livestock and officials may restrict the supply of water during particular hours if shortages become acute.
The five major reservoirs on the river currently have just 3.5 billion cubic meters of water - the lowest amount in recent years.
Water flowing into Huayuankou reservoir is expected to be 60 percent less than the average of previous years, following insufficient rainfall in the river valley in 2002.
"Things will become more severe if there is a drought this spring," said Chen.
Contrastingly, officials with the Yangtze River Water Resource Committee have dismissed rumors of excessive flooding this summer.
Fears mounted of a likely flood after comparisons were drawn with the heavy floods of 1998 when there was remarkably little water at the beginning of the year followed by a sudden surge in water in the middle reaches of the river.
But coincidence is not a good enough basis for predicting floods, said Chen Haiyun, an official with the Yangtze River committee. It had to be made more scientifically.
"The data are not sufficient for such a prediction yet. We must wait until April for a special expert meeting of the Central Meteorological Observatory," he said.
(China Daily February 25, 2003)