With continuous heavy rain and news of flooding across large parts of the country, it’s easy to forget that China is still a country with a shortage of water.
China’s total water resources rank it fourth in the world, but uneven distribution brought by extreme weather makes managing those resources a real headache. Middle and northern China’s climates are marked by intermittent periods of flooding and drought.
And even in some of the most humid areas of southern China, rainfall is heavily seasonal. And global climate change seems to be sending things into even further imbalance. In the densely populated middle and southern China, spring and summer see around 70% to 85% of the entire annual precipitation.
Reservoirs help store that rainwater, but for these areas, even more pressing is rapid urbanization and the need to find farmland enough to feed a growing urban population.
Gu Xiangbin, staff of Beijing Miyun Reservoir, said, “For Mi Yun reservoir, we are capable of storing over 500 million tons of water during time of flood, to balance between rainy and dry seasons.”
Nature creates her own reservoirs by storing water underground. This makes up around 22% of the total fresh water supply. But even these can quickly run dry.
There were once wells like this all over Beijing. But when resources began to deplete, people had to dig deeper down. That works in the short term, but exploiting ground water has its price. In some inland regions this has caused massive ground collapses, and in coastal regions, sea water rushes in to replace the depleted groundwater - slowly eroding the soil. Unless more long-term solutions are found, water shortages could soon become the biggest environmental issue for many regions.