Common Sense Canadian

China’s water crisis

PostedAugust 29, 2013 by in International
China's water crisis

A leak from a copper smelter in Fujian province poisons water and fish in Haokang village

Read this Aug. 29 story from the Epoch Times on the water crisis facing China.

China’s rapid industrialization and urbanization along with over exploitation and abuse of natural resources has led to serious water pollution and water scarcity that is approaching crisis proportions.

A recently released annual environmental bulletin by China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) reveals that over 30 percent of the country’s rivers and over 50 percent of groundwater are below national water quality standards. The continuing deterioration of water quality affecting people’s lives and health has become one of the most urgent existential crises for China.


In the first half of 2013, 12 state-controlled surface water monitoring stations revealed that heavy metal content at these sites surpassed national water quality standards by 22 times. Water samples taken from the Yangtze River and the Yellow River showed that mercury exceeded safe levels by 50 percent, followed by arsenic at 36.4 percent, according to a semiannual report by the MEP, released on Aug. 2.

Wastewater discharged nationwide in 2012 totaled 68.46 billion tons, according to the bulletin. Of the 1,200 rivers being monitored, 850 are contaminated, and over 90 percent of watersheds were contaminated.

State-controlled sections of the top 10 watersheds, including the Yangtze and Yellow rivers, 20.9 percent had “mild” pollution and 10.2 percent “medium-level” pollution, according to the statistical data in the bulletin.

Of the 4,929 groundwater-quality monitoring points in 198 cities, 57.3 percent reported “poor” or “very poor” water quality.

Groundwater quality has been degraded from massive dumping of untreated or partially treated wastewater. In addition, increased urbanization and industrial development in recent years have led to a growing overdraft of groundwater in some regions, which has significantly lowered the water level, cited Zhang Hongtao, chief engineer of China’s Ministry of Land and Resources as saying.

“Residential sewage, municipal wastewater, industrial effluents, and agricultural chemicals are dumped into rivers, which has inevitably contaminated the groundwater and threatened groundwater sources. Water pollution problems have become grim,” Zhang said.


According to the Economic Information Daily, pollutants from industrial, agricultural, and residential sources are the major causes of water pollution in China. Industrial pollution is caused by directly discharging untreated industrial effluents into nearby streams, lakes, rivers, or oceans.

Agricultural pollution refers to contamination of bodies of water through agricultural wastewater, fertilizers, and pesticides in rural regions. Excessive pesticide use can cause water pollution when the chemicals remain in the soil after irrigation and are absorbed into the groundwater by rain.

Extensive use of fertilizers also results in significant concentrations of nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus in agricultural runoffs that can contribute to harmful algae growth, another major form of water pollution.

Residential pollution from household activities, including untreated residential wastewater and improper disposal of chemicals, also contribute to water pollution.

Despite its national 450 billion yuan (roughly US$74 billion) wastewater treatment budget for the 12th five-year economic plan (2011–2015), China’s present sewage treatment capacity is only at 20 percent, while about 80 percent of wastewater is discharged, often untreated, directly into bodies of water, according to, a Shenzhen-based three dimensional map service website.

According to Chachaba, 54 out of 78 main rivers in China are polluted, and half of the top seven watersheds are contaminated. Up to 86 percent of rivers running through cities are considered polluted as contamination exceeds national standards.

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One Comment


    When a Chinese govt official calls the water situation “grim”.

    You know its very bad.

    I wonder when we will see global conflicts fought over food and more importantly, fresh, clean potable water………….

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