China Water issues

China is one of a few and often only place making products from computers to furniture, as well as the components of most products, so if China collapses, the ripple effects will be felt elsewhere.

On the other hand, if China doesn’t collapse, the risk of homo sapiens going extinct is much higher, since China will be able to continue to mine and burn coal, potentially enough to raise the earth’s temperature to the point of rendering a third of the land uninhabitable from high wet bulb heat.  Plus burning coal will acidify the ocean, raise the ocean levels even higher, pollute the water, air, and land, etc.

People complain we don’t make anything in America anymore and could fix the economy by growing through making stuff, but what we’ve done is export our pollution (“external costs”) elsewhere.  This lowers our health care costs, has kept some farm land from being built on, left a bit more forest, minerals, clean water, and other essential resources than we would have had.  Making stuff has only made the top 1% in China rich (they have even more wealth disparity than the USA), and 99% of the people can’t get clean water or food.

America has many of these problems as well.

A summary of: Jianguo Liu, et. al. 10 Aug 2012. Water Sustainability for China and beyond. Science.

Plans of the Chinese government to conserve water may backfire and cause both environmental and economic problems.  Between fairly scarce water and a rising population, decaying water infrastructure, and inadequate oversight of water projects, China is going to have a lot of trouble providing clean water to people.  For example, water shortages force people to build treatment plants on top of arable soil, lessening food production, plus these facilities use a lot of energy and water, which are needed by industrial facilities as well.


  • Safe drinking water: 300 million people don’t have it. Water quality is further eroded by eutrophication, loss of biodiversity and bioinvasion.
  • Water shortages     1) 440 of China’s 669 big cities have water shortages. 2) Both surface and groundwater has been depleted to grow food and to increase coal production. 3) Glaciers are melting from climate change, reducing water even further
  • Pollution: 40% of China’s rivers are severely polluted
  • 53% of China’s 87,000 dams are past their life spans or will be within 10 years, increasing the risk of structural failure
  • Eutrophication: 80% of the lakes
  • Tremendous water pollution from pesticides, chemical fertilizers, and runoff from rapid housing development



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