Continuing Drought in Pearl River Delta Prompts Water Diversion Plan

February 2, 2005

To alleviate a drought in progress since August 2004, officials implemented a water diversion plan in mid-January 2005 to bring water from reservoirs in southwest China to the Pearl River Delta region until early February, according to a China Daily article. The diversion plan potentially could last longer, the article says. Officials told reporters that the region’s drought is among the worst in 55 years. When the water is diverted, officials also said, no fishing will be permitted. Local governments are responsible for compensating fishermen for their economic losses. Guangdong officials attempted to alleviate the drought by creating artificial rain, encouraging water conservation, and halting hydraulic power stations, before deciding to implement the diversion plan. The previous measures did not succeed, however, and reservoirs in Guangdong continued to dry up, with salt tides threatening drinking water supplies. (See articles documenting the drought in Xinhua (1, 2, 3, 4) and the China Daily (1, 2.)

Guangdong province’s rapid population increase has intensified the long-term drought in the Pearl River Delta region. According to a recent article in the China Daily, industries that relocate to Guangdong increase the strain on the water supply by polluting water sources. The article suggests that Guangdong’s severe water shortages, combined with its importance as an industrial center and Hong Kong’s decreased water demands, may lead to significant changes in the 1989 water supply agreement with Hong Kong. Revisions adopted in 1998 call for the agreement to be reviewed annually beginning in 2005.