China's Water Crisis
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Big Picture | China Water Risk

Big Picture | China Water Risk | China's Water Crisis | Scoop.it
Paige Therien's insight:

The huge economic growth that China has undergone in the past few decades is having dire consequences on the most important life-sustaining resource on Earth.  Although intensive water access and sanitation infrastructures have recently been widely introduced and improved, China's per capita consumption of water is less than a third of the global average.  The formation of special economic zones has enabled an explosive rate of urbanization and in its wake, a delicious taste of indulgent (i.e. high-cost) Western living.  The millions of migrants coming into the cities from villages now have more access to things like electricity, showers, washing machines, and toilets.  But why is the consumption rate so uneven?  

 

These special economic zones and other large cities offer manufacturing, industry, and mining opportunities to many businesses from around the globe, providing millions of Chinese with jobs, and many other countries with goods.  However, it is becoming further and further away from the win-win situation which it was intended to be and which it may initially sound like.  The types of work that has led to China's growth largely rely on cheap, unsafe labor and materials.  They also require huge quantities of water to be carried-out; China is essentially indirectly exporting their water along with their produced goods.  China is formally considered "water scarce" because 11 of their regions have renewable water sources which are under the water poverty line.  These regions are responsible for 51 percent of China's industry and 38 percent of their agricultural outputs.  However, they are being subjected to water usage limits.

 

China has always been more heavily populated in its eastern regions due to the amount of rainfall it receives, the proximity to the Pacific Ocean, and the general topography of the country.  As the number of people migrating into eastern urban areas increases, the water is following suit, drying up and becoming more polluted nation-wide.  China's supply and demand of water is very unbalanced.  China has 20 percent of the world's population and only 7 percent of the world's fresh water (2012).  While the demand is ever increasing due to high populations and drastic lifestyle changes, China is quickly losing their supply of water to exploitation of aquifers, pollution from industries, and pollution from inadequate sewage treatment.  This has and will continue to have intense effects on the people and the local and global environments.

 

This is a series of very informative, interactive infographics detailing the "big picture" of China's water crisis.

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China's Water Crisis

China's Water Crisis | China's Water Crisis | Scoop.it
For years, China claimed to hold an estimated 50000 rivers within its borders. Now, more than half of them have abruptly vanished.

Via Seth Dixon
Paige Therien's insight:

China is attributing the disappearance of over 50 percent of their country's rivers to inaccurate sources; more effective technologies today give an accurate picture of China's waterways compared to the former data based off of sources from the  1950's.  While it is probably true to some extent that previous numbers were off, there still needs to be much concern for the state of China's current waterways and why waterways that once existed have disappeared.

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Steven McGreevy's curator insight, April 19, 2013 1:47 AM

More good news from China.

Tracy Galvin's curator insight, May 3, 2014 4:48 PM

Cutting corners in safety and cleanliness has caused pollution in the rivers. All the money they saved cutting corners now has to be invested in diverting clean water to northern areas of the country. I hope someday they realize that you cannot do things super cheaply without paying for it in another area.

Jess Deady's curator insight, May 4, 2014 9:41 PM

What has happened to these rivers? Are they purposely being depleted from China? How do they expect to supply water for their residents if they are building things over these used-to-be rivers?

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Water security threatens China - FT World - World & Global Economy Video - FT.com

Water security threatens China - FT World - World & Global Economy Video - FT.com | China's Water Crisis | Scoop.it
China’s water resources are running scarce. Farming and other human activities are turning large parts of the country into deserts and forcing residents to migrate. The FT's Leslie Hook reports from Gansu province.
Paige Therien's insight:

The situation in Minqin is an example of what may come to other parts of China and many other places around the world.  This video shows residents who have chosen to stay in Minqin County, despite the hardships they face due to depletion of the area's water sources.  The featured family raise sheep and grow cotton, a very water-intensive crop.  When such a dramatic landscape change happens in such a short time, it is hard for people to adjust.  This is true not only because of how valuable water is for life, but also because their crops may be heavily relied on by others and they are "specialized" in their work and do not have experience doing anything else, even if it means growing a different type of crop which uses less water.  This is very important since farming accounts for over 60 percent of water usage in China.  Government efforts in Minqin to reverse this damage, including man-made wetlands and importation of water, are beginning to expose the fact that once a situation like Minqin's is recognized and addressed, it may be too late. 

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Photos: A Massive Sandstorm Swept Across Northern China

Photos: A Massive Sandstorm Swept Across Northern China | China's Water Crisis | Scoop.it
The event is one of the largest to hit China in years
Paige Therien's insight:

Regions in Northern China are accustomed to the sandstorms which come from the Gobi desert and sweep through their cities and towns.  However, the most recent sandstorm is the worst one in about ten years and the frequency of these storms over the past 50 years have generally been on the rise.   The desertification happening in places like Minqin County are greatly attributing to the increase in sandstorms.  This has implications both locally and globally.   Even California has been touched by the sand from China.  Sand, and other particles in the air known as aerosols, are key components in climate change  because of their ability to travel around the Earth's atmosphere, absorb sunlight (and therefore effect temperatures everywhere by either heating or cooling), and interfere with cloud formation.

 

More information on China's pollution and it's global effects here:

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/04/140414-asia-pollution-aerosols-atmosphere-weather-climate-science/ ;

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Landslide Peril Near Chinese Reservoir Grows, Official Says

Landslide Peril Near Chinese Reservoir Grows, Official Says | China's Water Crisis | Scoop.it
A Chinese government expert warned that geologic instability could force the relocation of 100,000 more residents of the area around the Three Gorges Dam.
Paige Therien's insight:

It is no doubt that the Three Gorge Dam's reservoir is having a large effect on the surround land's stability.  Since the inundation of the reservoir, landslides have increase by 70 percent, especially during seasonal increases in the reservoir's water level.

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China Green | Asia Society » A Story of Invisible Water (Full Length)

China Green | Asia Society » A Story of Invisible Water (Full Length) | China's Water Crisis | Scoop.it
Paige Therien's insight:

Industry has given way to economic growth and opportunity in China.  However,  it has also given way to huge amounts of pollution due to the materials being used in production processes and lack of regulation for waste disposal.  When enterprises are responsible for providing surrounding citizens with jobs and other opportunities, it is easy for people to overlook their transgressions, especially when the government itself is doing the same.  Although superficial evidence of pollution is being "addressed" and "removed", it is seemingly too late; groundwater and soil is already polluted, causing low-yielding crops and pervasive diseases like cancer.  Over exploitation of groundwater is not only allowing rivers to dry up, but is also causing land subsidence and the inability to properly treat dirty water which makes pollution even worse.  

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China acknowledges 'cancer villages'

China acknowledges 'cancer villages' | China's Water Crisis | Scoop.it
China's environment ministry appears to have acknowledged the existence of so-called "cancer villages", after years of public speculation about the impact of pollution in certain areas.
Paige Therien's insight:

China has recently began focusing on a huge issue which is being referred to as the proliferation of the "cancer village".  This issue provides an example of how uneven the global distribution and use of resources are; one reason why China is coveted by other nations in terms of industry is because they are allowed to use the cheapest but most toxic materials in production which are banned in most other countries.  Prior lack of government regulation due to economic interests have allowed this situation to get completely out of hand and now waters, soil, and air are making people extremely sick.  High concentrations of this pollution in about 200 villages are cause village-wide cancer outbreaks.

 

The video linked below shows some personal accounts of the impact Western industry has had in China.  Although this video primarily focuses on workers who deal with toxic materials with there own hands, the fact that they develop cancer just within a few years of initial exposure shows how invasive toxic materials can be; is the human body that much different from the Earth in terms of their support systems? 

http://www.upworthy.com/ever-heard-of-benzene-poisoning-me-neither-but-samsung-and-apple-have-1112 

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Spewing sewage into the ocean is bad: toxic algae and man-sized jellyfish edition

Spewing sewage into the ocean is bad: toxic algae and man-sized jellyfish edition | China's Water Crisis | Scoop.it
Once a swampy backwater of fewer than 20 million people, the Pearl River Delta—the southern swath of mainland China above Hong Kong—now has three times that population. Tens of millions more humans in the Pearl River Delta means many more toilets a-flush, pumping a steady gush of human waste into the South China Sea. That's gross—but not necessarily for the...
Paige Therien's insight:

About 270 of the 662 major Chinese cities do not have sewage treatment programs.  Those that do have them are either ineffective or mismanaged.  As a result, most of China's raw sewage gets dumped directly into their waterways.  The sewage, along with fertilizers which have also made it into the waters, allow certain species of animals and algae to proliferate and alter the local and global ecosystems.

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China From the Inside: China's Top Water Issues

China From the Inside: China's Top Water Issues | China's Water Crisis | Scoop.it
The series, China from the Inside, witnesses environmental activists, Party officials, academics and scientists in a daily struggle over the damage to nature in China.
Paige Therien's insight:

These are some of the issues which will be discussed.  Although China is a huge country and there is a lot to be learned about it's water crisis,  this country can be seen as a model for the world.  It has many diverse environments which are all being subjected to the demands of concentrated population growth and increasing toxic  industry driven by the rest of the globe.  As China's economic opportunities, both domestic and foreign, are being slowed by their water issues and increased transparency on the resulting health issues,  industry is spreading to other countries, many of which partially rely on China for their water.  No matter how far we try to run away, these issues are going to follow us if we do not change our ways.  This is especially true because pollution does not stay in one place or strictly affect the region which created it;  we are already beginning to see the global effects of the world's top polluters.  It is not just our commodity chains and technology that connects the world's people; our waterways and airways connect us in much more tangible ways.  We must keep places like China in mind, now and in the future, when planning new systems.  Instead of immediately satiating any demand which arises, we must control our demands by thinking of more efficient, yet environmentally sound ways to do things.

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Aquifer

Aquifer | China's Water Crisis | Scoop.it
Encyclopedic entry. An aquifer is an underground layer of water-bearing rock. Water-bearing rocks are permeable, meaning that they have openings that liquids and gases can pass through.
Paige Therien's insight:

Aquifers are extremely important to the Earth's ecology.  Because of this, aquifers play a huge role when it comes to any sort of water crisis, like China's.  Aquifers  are giant, underground reservoirs of fresh water; they hold the water that seeps into the very permeable Earth.  Aquifers around the globe are being heavily used for human agriculture, consumption, and sanitation.  Humans are using these water sources at such a rate that the natural processes that formed themed can not replenish them quick enough.  When water is extracted from the ground quickly and is not replenished at equal rates, the Earth's permeability decreases due to compression of the soil, which makes the effects of extraction fairly permanent.  Also, when a region's water is removed and brought elsewhere for use, the amount of rainfall in this area greatly decreases because it is taken out of that regions water cycle, a process known as aridification.  These factors are main culprits of desertification.  Since the Earth acts as a filter for the water seeping through on its way to the aquifers, any soil contaminants will then become water contaminants.  The underground expanses and connections of aquifers allow pollution to stealthily spread to other regions.  These are some of the root causes of China's water crisis.

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Will the Desert Claim Minqin?

Will the Desert Claim Minqin? | China's Water Crisis | Scoop.it
Paige Therien's insight:

Initially, residents in China's Minqin County were able to establish an agricultural community by using the waters of the Shiyang River, which flowed from the Qilian Mountains, located south of the county.  The oasis protected other regions from the ruthlessly spreading deserts, which are located on the remaining east, west, and north sides.  This drastically began to change in the 1990's when upstream damming of the Shiyang River and a few years of very dry weather forced Minqin residents to resort to groundwater for their water needs.  As a result, the water table has lowered at rates of about 0.5-1 meters per year.  If people do not choose to migrate out of the area, they are alternatively forced to decrease the amount of crops they cultivate.  The exploitation of the groundwater is leaving the soil, and therefore the remaining groundwater, with an increasingly high mineral content.  Residents and their livestock are then forced to drink either water with a high mineral content or water which has been heavily treated, both being very unhealthy.  As this region becomes drier and drier and the amount to vegetation decreases, the desert sands are not only beginning to take over the villages, but are also being stirred up and forming huge dust clouds which travel throughout the earth's atmosphere.

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Chinese Dam Projects Criticized for Their Human Costs

Chinese Dam Projects Criticized for Their Human Costs | China's Water Crisis | Scoop.it

A year after the completion of the Three Gorges Dam, water pollution, landslides and mass resettlement have led to questions about hydropower as a solution to China’s energy conundrum.

Paige Therien's insight:

China's Three Gorges Dam in the middle of the Yangtze River, the third largest river in the world, is 610 feet high and 1.3 miles wide and holds water in a reservoir which is 360 miles long.  The project is the biggest undertaking of its kind, ever; it surpassed many different global records by a long shot and has been extremely profitable (for a select few).  One of the dam's record-breaking characteristics are positive, which is the amount of hydropower it will produce for a country which relies primarily on the dirtiest of coal for over 60 percent of it's energy.  However, its negative effects and implications in the near and distant future are likely to greatly outweigh any benefits.  

 

The sheer size of this dam will only be good for one thing, which is breaking records.  Dams much smaller than this have shown to have many negative environmental effects.  This huge concentration of water creates massive amounts of pressure on the shorelines and the earth's plates themselves, possibly causing an increase in seismic activity.  If the dam was to somehow fail, areas along the Yangtze river, and possibly even Shanghai which is at it's mouth, would be in grave danger of flooding and subsequent pollution (especially if China builds the multiple nuclear power plants which have been proposed along the river).  The concentration of this much water also means that pollution would also be highly concentrated.  This is not the best thing for a water source which will provide power and sustenance to millions of people in a country where 24 percent of its waters are already unusable.  

 

The most immediate and direct effect of this project has been the relocation of millions of people onto either higher ground or new locations altogether.  The government has incentivized people relocating elsewhere many times, but many people keep returning due to former ties and lack of opportunity in their new "homes", similar to the cotton farmers of Miqin County.  The increased population density, which is double the nation's average, on such little plots of heavily farmed land is causing fast erosion to the point of huge landslides.  These people's lives, livelihood, and homes are literally crumbling away.  This situation is very reminiscent of a nation-wide pattern in China and the globe itself; the rich and powerful are becoming even more so at the expense of the poor. 

 

Hardships, although felt by many of those relocated, are not the reality for everyone:

http://www.worldcrunch.com/culture-society/hard-luck-hard-work-tales-of-forced-migrants-of-china-039-s-three-gorges-dam/migrant-society-employment-three-gorges/c3s10710/#.U1tQ9vldWSo ;

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Diverted opportunity: Inequality and what the South-North Water Transfer Project really means for China

Diverted opportunity: Inequality and what the South-North Water Transfer Project really means for China | China's Water Crisis | Scoop.it
Crow-Miller looks at the impacts of the South-North Water Transfer Project on the sustainability of the long term water supply and economic growth
Paige Therien's insight:

The South-North Water Transfer Project is China's latest infrastructure project   This project, which is comprised of the western, central, and eastern diversion routes, will divert trillions of ton of water from the southern Yangtze river basin to the Northern Yellow River areas and large urban spaces like Beijing, Tianjin, and Weihai.  This water project, like the Three Gorges Dam, is expected to have huge environmental and social impacts.  

 

The diversion of water to the parched north may be a death sentence for China's water supply all together; as addressed previously, depleted aquifers are extremely difficult to restore through man made means.  The movement of water will also mean the movement of industry towards the areas receiving the diverted water, as well as people, both forcibly from their homes due to the canals and voluntarily in search of jobs.  In other words, the already over-exploited areas of the North, like Shijiazhuang, will become even more populated, industrialized, and polluted.  


Similarly to the Three Gorges Dam, this project shows where China's interests lay; industries and urban areas are being served while the poor, rural regions are ignored.  This project will also highly effect the water supplies of highly populated neighboring countries of Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, India, Thailand and Bangladesh, and will encourage tense politics and relations in the area.  Changing the water-way makeup which has created and maintained China's diverse ecosystems are sure to have consequences for plants, animals, and weather patterns.

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Detox

Detox | China's Water Crisis | Scoop.it
Launched in July 2011, the Detox campaign has exposed links between textile manufacturing facilities causing toxic water pollution in China, and many of the world's top clothing brands.
Paige Therien's insight:

The Detox movement aims to recognize and hold large clothing brands accountable for the pollution they are putting into China's waters.  This is a global movement which is fitting since China's waters are polluted largely due to global industries and interests.  It is easy for many people, who are at the consumer end of the commodity chain, to ignore the impact that the goods they are consuming have on the environment because they have fairly good access to abundant, clean water.

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Concerns Grow About 'Severely Polluted' Water in China's Cities

Concerns Grow About 'Severely Polluted' Water in China's Cities | China's Water Crisis | Scoop.it
China’s other major pollution problem — degradation of its water supply — is drawing increasing attention from environmentalists, and investors.
Paige Therien's insight:

"It's better for one person to get their hands dirty so 10,000 people can be clean", says the river cleaners.  Although many places in China are taking measures to reduce pollution of their waterways, such as infrastructure development and moving farms and factories further away,  these measures can not keep up with population and industry growth, especially in the cities.  Also, pollution has become so widespread in many areas that even when direct sources of pollution are removed, groundwater movement and the pollution it carries allows pollution to spread.  

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‘Superbugs’ found breeding in sewage plants

‘Superbugs’ found breeding in sewage plants | China's Water Crisis | Scoop.it
Tests at wastewater treatment plants in China revealed antibiotic-resistant bacteria were not only escaping purification but also breeding and spreading their dangerous cargo.
Paige Therien's insight:

"Superbugs", or disease-causing microorganisms which have evolved to be antibiotic-resistant, have become an increasing concern in recent years.  In China, not even what few fully functioning sewage-treatment plants they have, can combat these bugs with their harsh chemicals.  This is important not only because of China's high populations, but also because China sees huge global travel, both of which facilitate fast spread of disease

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