China’s Frightening Dry Future

china water crisis 01 Chinas Frightening Dry Future
On the surface, things are looking good in Shijiazhuang, China: the population of this northern city is increasing, economic growth is up 11 percent from last year, and upscale waterfront housing developments are rapidly popping up in this provincial haven of more than two million people.

Underneath it all, however, is a different story. There is no prosperity for northern China’s water supply. Local groundwater has been two-thirds drained by municipal wells, while the underground water table sinks about four feet per year.

For the past thirty years, as China’s massive economic expansion led them to world power status, water has served a vital function. The usage of this resource has quintupled since late 1940s, but poor planning has led to a major water crisis, causing the New York Times to speculate that “leaders will increasingly face tough political choices as cities, industry and farming compete for a finite and unbalanced water supply.”

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The Water Crisis | Hitting the Peak

watercrisis 01 The Water Crisis | Hitting the Peak

It’s a fact that humans need about 100,000 gallons of water per person / per year to survive. But that number is easily outstripped by our various collateral activities. Maintaining nice lawns, using water for motorized recreation, creating extravagant water shows – even over-running the tap while brushing our teeth – has thrown the sustainability loop well out of orbit – especially when these activities happen in a desert environment.

It’s no secret that many of the large cities in the Southwestern U.S. wouldn’t be around without significant human engineering and its accompanying environmental impact. Mark Reisner’s Cadillac Desert follows the transformation of the American West in detail, decrying the loss of important habitat for farming and wildlife, geographic beauty, and archaeological records of the area’s first inhabitants. Cadillac is a sad, yet important story because so many inhabitants of the Southwest take their water for granted, not for the scarce commodity it truly is.

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