Eighty percent of China’s groundwater is polluted, and 6% of the world’s water reserves with extremely unequal distribution are severe problems China faces. 

An insight report about this matter was published in Le Monde last Tuesday, Oct 18. 

According to that, the country with the largest population in the world only accounts for 6% of the world’s water reserves. China’s per capita water usage is just over a quarter of the global average. 50% of industrial, 33% of irrigation, and 65% of domestic water come from groundwater, making the country heavily dependent on this source. 

Insufficient quantity led to the overexploitation of aquifers, especially in northern China. According to the Ministry of Construction, preliminary statistics show more than 160 areas nationwide where groundwater has been over-exploited, with an average annual groundwater depletion of more than 10 billion cubic meters. As a result, more than 23,000 square miles of the ground surface have sunk, with more than 50 cities suffering from severe land subsidence.

Adding to the severe water shortage is the issue of high pollution. China’s extraordinary economic growth, industrialization, urbanization, and inadequate investment in basic water supply and treatment infrastructure have resulted in widespread water pollution. A study conducted by the authority in 2016 showed that 80% of groundwater was contaminated with pollutants, including heavy metals or arsenic.

The growing population and rapid economic development also pose a significant challenge to the government amid water resources. 25% population lives in the north and contributes 27% of the country’s GDP but only shares 4% of the country’s water resource. 

The lack of water has significantly impacted the agriculture sector. Fitch estimated China’s rice harvest in 2022 could fall by 10% to 20% due to the drought. Climate change also made extreme weather more severe. The country reported floods upstream of the Chongqing area and recorded drought downstream of Jiangxi province. 

The authority has issued red warnings twice since September. Since June, Poyang Lake’s water level has dropped from 19 to 7 meters (62 feet to 23 feet). Xu Yinlong, the chief scientist at the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, said, “This is probably the lowest level in eight centuries.”

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