Three Gorges Dam releases more water to ease drought

Xinhua, May 17, 2011

China's Three Gorges Dam, the world's largest hydropower project, increased water discharge for a second time Monday to help ease a severe drought in the middle reaches of the Yangtze River.

The dam in the central city of Yichang accelerated its discharge rate to 9,500 cubic meters per second, about 2,900 cubic meters faster than its inflow speed, according to Zhao Yunfa, an engineer at the dam.

The discharge increase starts at 8 a.m. and ends at 8 p.m. each day until Wednesday, he said.

The inflow rate fell to 6,600 cubic meters per second at one point on Monday, the lowest rate in 16 years, Zhao said.

The inflow speed in the first ten days of May was only about 60 percent of average levels as the upper reaches received less rainfall since last winter, he said.

With the help of the first discharge increase between May 7 and 10, the dam released a total of 400 million cubic meters of water, one third more than that in normal periods.

The severe drought has reduced the water levels in the middle section of the Yangtze River, China's largest, to a near record low.

The water levels in the section between Yichang in Hubei Province and Jiujiang in the eastern province of Jiangxi were 2.5 to 5.6 meters lower than average levels, the Hubei provincial flood control and drought relief headquarters said in a statement Saturday.

The drought has plagued provinces along the river, including Hubei, Hunan and Jiangxi. It has affected 20.2 million mu (1.35 million hectares) of crops mainly in provinces of Hubei, Hunan and Gansu as of Sunday, the Office of State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters said in a statement Monday.

During the January-April period, the Yangtze River basin had received 40 percent less rainfall than the average amount over 50 years.