China Development and the Water Problem

Friday, June 10, 2011

Massive development and urbanization are jeopardizing China's water supply. Upmanu Lall, director of the Columbia Water Center and professor of Earth and Environmental Engineering at Columbia University, and Christina Larson, contributing editor at Foreign Policy magazine and fellow at the New America Foundation, discuss China's efforts to deal with this challenge, and urbanization and water issues worldwide.


Upmanu Lall and Christina Larson

Comments [4]

China's watercide from beijing

have been in china since 94 and seen and felt the water challenges the middle kingdom faces. the world must be warned that a disaster related to clean drinking water, agricultural water, and melting of the third pole are the problems with climate change it looks bad, very bad.
I have never seen a clean river in China of some volume and have travelled to every province and every mountain range.
The main contributors to the pollution of almost all waterways are mining (Cadmium, Led and other heavy metals) and uncontrolled use of pesticides, herbicides, fungicides and chemical fertilizer. The waterways in less developed areas are polluted by above mentioned culprits plus the recent introduction of washing powder and other chemicals that go with modernizing.

People here are very concerned but powerless and or not enough educated to judge local water issues.

It will be the priority to secure the position of the political elite here to urgently address these problems related to water with the waste of industrial agriculture to be looked at first. A hungry China is a dangerous place indeed.

The rise of mega cities and rapid urbanization will damage local ground water levels even more and coastal salinization in cities like Shanghai through rising sea levels will create a huge and terrifying challenge for the next batch of princeling leaders.

I am every day surprised I still got water through my pipes here in Beijing. One day soon that will change...

Jun. 20 2011 11:47 AM
Mia M. from Brooklyn

Really important segment. Another aspect of China's current, and looming, water crisis is that it's moving fast to create an industrial agricultural model, and produce more meat and dairy products, that requires huge water resources and creates massive water pollution. Already, run-off from livestock facilities are a major source of water pollution in China -- and these facilities, and the feed crops they require to raise large numbers of animals -- are using more of China's water: and

Jun. 10 2011 11:29 AM
Michelle from nyc

Wasn't it in An Inconvenient Truth, that scientists commented with the polar ice caps melting, China's 2 main rivers would loose much of their water supply affecting some 250 million people?

Jun. 10 2011 11:13 AM
amalgam from NYC by day, NJ by night

I applaud Dr. Lall for his work on water issues in the developing world, especially finding solutions to groundwater (over)use for irrigation purposes in India.

To gain in-depth information and coverage on the _serious_ water concerns in China and Asia, and for some of the best (and only) dedicated journalism on the global freshwater crises, go to the excellent Circle of Blue:

Finally, because of population increase and and intensification of the hydrological cycle ("drought and deluge") due to human-induced climate change, people in the US and even NY State CANNOT continue to think that water resources will remain identical in quantity and quality when compared to traditional freshwater supplies.

Better comprehensive planning and a shift to a new water-energy paradigm is necessary.

Jun. 10 2011 10:53 AM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

Get the WNYC Morning Brief in your inbox.
We'll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.