Although he lives beside the Yellow River, China's
second longest and popularly known as China's Mother river, Du Ping is very
concerned about water supply, which was the cause in a drop of his income last
The farmer in Chongxing Town, northwestern China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous
Region, used to plant rice on his third of a hectare farm, but switched to maize
last year as it requires less water. His income dropped by US$250.
"I don't know what I will plant in the future if the river has less and less
water," he sighed.
Between 2001 and 2005, the average runoff of the Yellow River was about 25
percent below normal. Some parts of the river were dry for nine consecutive
years beginning in 1990.
The Yellow River plays a vital role in China as it provides water for 12
percent of China's 1.3 billion people.
China has taken measures to protect water sources and control the total
volume used by cities along the Yellow River, which prevented the river from
drying up over the last six years.
The average runoff in the Yellow River in the past four year is 42.8 billion
cubic meters, down 26 percent from normal levels.
"Water levels in the Yellow River are low because the demand for water is too
high," said Li Guoying, head of Yellow River Conservancy Committee.
Experts predict that by 2010 the river will be down by 10 billion cubic
meters of water.
China has a per capita water resources of 2,200 cubic meters, only 31 percent
of the world's average. Currently, about 400 out of China's 660 cities lack
water and 136 have reported severe water shortages.
Water shortages have been made worse by pollution. Both the Yangtze River and
the Yellow River, the two longest rivers in China, have sounded alarms.
Only two out of 11 lakes along the Yangtze River reported fine water quality
during spot tests in 2003. Meanwhile, statistics showed 70 percent of cities
along the Yellow River did not have standard water supply.
Despite the shortages wasteful water practices are still often seen. Every
year 27 billion cubic meters of water was taken from Yellow River but it is not
efficiently used by farmers or cities.
A noted water resources expert in China, Zhang Guangdou, wrote recently that
even after the gigantic South-to-North Water Diversion Project, the Yellow River
will still lack water due to agriculture and industrial development.
The key to ensuring the water supply is to use water economically and
according to supply, Zhang said.
"We will take measures to ensure that water consumption levels out in the
year 2030," said Vice Minister of Water Resources Hu Siyi at a conference to
mark World Water Day 2006 on Wednesday.
In order to save water, 17 provinces have begun to introduce quotas on water
use in the past five years, while more than 10 provinces the price of tap water
has continued to increase.
The Yellow River starts in Qinghai Province in the northwest and flows
through Gansu, Ningxia, Inner Mongolia, Shaanxi, Shanxi and Henan, before
passing through Shandong and emptying into the Bohai Sea.