The growing importance of water in China

Water is growing daily in importance in China with water featuring more and more in the news and government announcements. Water as a economic and cultural issue is coming to ahead as it starts to impact on the economic growth of China and the health of its citizens. There have been recent announcements about investment in water, water pollution in drought in China.

The Ministry of Water Resources announced that they plan to spend 1.8 trillion yuan (286 billion U.S. dollars) on water conservation projects during the 2011-2015 period(12th 5 year plan). The funds are to be used to relieve droughts and floods, efficiently allocate water usage, protect water resources and establish a mechanism for the scientific development of water conservation. (14 Feb – Source Link) The government plans to invest as total of 4 trillion yuan (US$634.9 billion) in water conservation projects over the next 10 years.

Also Hu Siyi, vice minister of water resources, recently said water shortages, serious river pollution and the deteriorating aquatic ecology are “quite outstanding” and may threaten the country’s sustainable growth. The ministry’s data showed that 40 percent of Chinese rivers were seriously polluted and unfit for drinking after 75 billion tonnes of sewage and waste water were discharged in 2010. Hu also said that about 20 percent of rivers were so polluted their water quality was rated too toxic even to come into contact with.

To address the problem, the State Council, or China’s cabinet, unveiled a guideline on Thursday(16 Feb) to regulate the use of water under “the strictest criteria,” capping the maximum volume of water use at 700 billion cubic meters by the end of 2030. According to the guideline, China will work to keep its total volume of water use below 670 billion cubic meters in 2020. Also, the government will tighten its supervision over exploitation of underground water, further protect sources of drinking water, and restore the aquatic ecological system by introducing water-use licenses and other measures. (16 Feb – Source Link)

The importance of water is also growing due to the drought in South West Yunnan which has been effecting crops and cities. The Vice Premier calling on local governments to increase the speed of irrigation and water conservation projects in Yunnan.

The water economy will grow at an extrodinary rate over the next 10 years as the government invest trillions of yuan, cities urbanise, agriculture increases efficiency, sewerage and pollution of waterways is addressed. Realising that water will become more critical for the growth of China than many other resources is key to understanding the water economy.

Water is reaching critical point for many cities, farmers and industries and is just starting to get the respect it deserves in China. As designers it is our role to assist the government achieving the goals they have set whether on the macro scale of landscape planning or on the micro scale of site design. As designers we have many design tools and technologies(water testing, watershed analysis, SUD, etc.)  available to address water issues. Understanding and using these tools is also key to remaining informed about this growing issue in China that will feature more and more in our design process.