Domestic News Media Highlight the Water Shortage Crisis in China

June 1, 2005

In recent weeks, the Chinese print media has published a number of articles quoting representatives of the Ministry of Water Resources on the water shortage crisis in China. The news media has also produced pieces on the causes of pollution and the long and short-term solutions of increased efficiency in the use of water resources.

A China Daily article quoted Wang Shucheng, the Minister of Water Resources, who said, "Chronic shortages, pollution, waste, and poor management have combined to exhaust the country’s fragile water system." The result: current water shortages for 66 percent of China’s cities, with 16 percent having severe shortages. The article highlights Wang’s identification of inefficient use of water as the primary contributor to the water shortage.

Another article in Xinhua and a China Daily editorial examine how ineffective regional implementation of conservation policies, and lack of policies to protect resources, also contribute to water shortages.

By all accounts, pollution also threatens sources of drinking water. The China Daily editorial quotes Minister Wang Shucheng as saying that boiling drinking water is not always an effective means of sterilization. This idea is particularly true in areas where industrial waste has contaminated the drinking water source. A devastating example occurred in December 2004 in Fuxin City, Liaoning province where 160 people were hospitalized for arsenic poisoning, according to an Agence France Presse report.

To raise public awareness of water conservation efforts, cities throughout China have increased the price of water significantly. According to a Xinhua article and an article in the Beijing Review, in August the price of water in Beijing was raised from 2.9 Yuan to 3.7 Yuan per ton. The Beijing Review article further discusses the current water shortage crisis and provides a broad overview of water price reform in China since 1985.

One highly publicized long-term solution to water shortages in Beijing and northern China is the South-North Water Diversion Project. Other long-term solutions include implementation and enforcement of pollution prevention measures such as the Law on Environmental Impact Assessment and the Amendment to the Law on Solid Waste Pollution Prevention.