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Pacific Rim Perspective
By: Richarf King

Water Management and Conservation:  A Challenge for China

During my many trips to China, I have been impressed with the challenges China faces in water distribution, management, pollution and conservation.  Massive river systems such as the Yangtze, Yellow & Pearl and monumental projects such as the Three Gorges are symbolic of China’s water resources and challenges.

The rapid industrialization and urbanization taking place in China since the initiation of the economic reforms and the transition from a planned to market economy have led to environmental pollution, ecological deterioration and have had a negative impact in people’s health and regional life support systems.  As an example, the Yellow River, the second largest river in China, has substantially reduced its flow during the past 25 years due to the diversity of human activity in the upper and middle regions of the river.  This has severely limited the water available for urban use and for the sustaining of agricultural activity.

The main water issues for China seem to be:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         • The uneven water distribution within the country.  80% of the total water resources are in South China.
• The inappropriate use of water.  Dirty water and water too rich in nutrients causes a sever shortage of quality water.
• The increasing flooding and drought caused by hydrological projects.
• The lack of water conservation and recycling programs.

The Chinese are becoming increasingly aware of water issues due to the Yangtze
River basin flooding in 1998, the Yellow River basin water shortage referred to earlier and the pollution of three principal lakes and rivers.  Numerous meetings, seminars, and workshops have been conducted on water issues including quality, conservation, draught consumption, and distribution.  Much of this activity has been sponsored by UNESCO.  The Chinese will accelerate their research into better water management since they must support 22% of the world’s population with only 7% of the world’s available land 6% of the world’s fresh water supply.  They are also realizing that there is a huge potential for water saving by exploring waste water resources.  Beijing, for example, is currently facing a water shortage but much of its water could be saved by recycling of treated waste water.

Perhaps, the number one concern in China regarding water is the extensive
pollution of its rivers and lakes.  This is caused essentially by the higher rates of urbanization and industrialization.  Rivers that are extremely polluted include the Haike, Huang, & Huaike rivers and their reduced flow is causing great concern to Chinese authorities.  The contamination of these rivers is caused by pollutants from chemicals and petrochemicals, paper making, textile industries, tanning and untreated domestic waste water.

China is basically an inland country with water and land, the two limiting factors for its life supporting system.  To survive, the Chinese people must plan, design and manage their environment and place special emphasis on the increased efficiency of their water distribution and more awareness of conservation. There are many industries in the San Gabriel Valley which have expertise in water reclamation, recycling, distribution and management and are in a unique position to help China develop a strategy to align their “water vision” with the current economic reforms.

Richard King,, Chairman Emeritus/Trustee Woodbury University  Director, Pacific Rim Programs Woodbury University, Chairman/Founder King International Group