While most people concerned with China’s pollution problem are focused on the smog-ridden skies, recent studies have found that focus should be drawn on a more important pollution problem in China – that found in the country’s waterways. According to 2,103 samples taken by the Ministry of Environmental Protection, over 80% of China’s underground water is unsafe for drinking because of pollution. Not only is this water used for human consumption, but it is also important for agriculture and industry. As of recently, China’s underground water use has increased, further exacerbating the problem. Currently, one-fifth of China’s total water demand comes from underground water, and in the arid-north, this statistic increases to two-thirds. Not only is China’s underground water supply severely polluted, but 70% of the country’s rivers have also been deemed unsafe for human contact.
China has a numeric system for grading water quality. Grades one, two, and three are safe for human contact, and four and five can only be used for industry and agriculture. Water that is grade five and above has essentially lost all functionality. The Ministry has stated that it plans to implement measures to improve the majority of water that falls on the unusable spectrum (five and above) by 2030.
What possible effects does this water pollution have on the Chinese economy? China’s water supply is currently one-third of the average per capita around the globe, meaning that a deterioration of the water quality could cause a bottleneck. This supply deficit could then hurt future economic growth for the sectors that have the highest demand, such as agriculture, which currently uses 75% of the total water supply.
The water pollution problem is currently in a cycle that is difficult to break. Agriculture and industry contribute heavily to the pollution in rivers and ground water. These sectors in turn suffer from the lack of clean water. The Ministry of Environmental Protection seems to be working to stop this cycle, but only time will tell if their efforts are successful.