CKGSB Knowledge - China Business and Economy

WHEN THE TAPS RUN DRY

The moment finally came just after Lunar New Year, 2016. That morning, residents in Lintao, a city of 200,000 in the remote northwest, turned on the taps, but no water flowed. The groundwater that provided the town’s supply had simply run out.

A year later, Si County, a cluster of settlements 2,000 kilometers to the southeast, also ran dry. After municipal wells began to empty, local schools and hospitals resorted to drilling their own. But even private wells are often ineffective as the county’s daily water shortage has surpassed 20 million liters.

Hundreds of cities across China now face similar crises as the country’s rapid development takes a terrible toll on water supplies. Urbanization and industrialization on a massive scale have led to an enormous rise in water use.

“In 1990, there were 50,000 rivers in China. Now, there are only 22,000”

In the north, which contains nearly half of the population but only 20% of the water resources, there is not enough to meet demand. Groundwater storage on the North China Plain fell at a rate of more than 6 trillion liters a year between 2002 and 2014.

In 1990, there were 50,000

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