In China, Thirst for Growth Leaves Land Parched

Blistering development laps up water supply
By Zach Samalin,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 27, 2007 5:12 PM CDT
A child walks on the sand dune in Waixi, Gansu province, China, March 17, 2007. In a problem that's pervasive in much of China, overfarming has drawn down the water table so low that desert is overtaking...   (Associated Press)
camera-icon View 2 more images

(Newser) – Economic growth, rampant contamination, vast crops and a population explosion are sapping China's groundwater supply at an unprecedented pace. And with 20% of the world's population but only 7% of its water supply, the Chinese government is hard-pressed for solutions, the New York Times reports. "They will run out of water if the current rate continues," says one hydrologist.

One possibility is reviving Mao's $62 billion dream of a south-to-north water-transfer project, which proposes funneling 12 trillion gallons of water from the Yangtze River basin northward. But that river houses roughly 41% of China's wastewater, complicating the matter. The government has also promised greater penalties for illegal dumping, in order to stymie pollution, as aquifers steadily dry up.