The Water resources of China include 2,711.5 cubic kilometers of mean annual runoff in its rivers and 828.8 cubic kilometers which was pumped annually from shallow aquifers circa 2000. As pumping water draws water from nearby rivers, the total available resource is 2,821.4 cubic kilometers. 80.9% of these resources are in the Yangtze River Basin. In 1993 498,720 square kilometers were irrigated.


China spans, due to its large size and dramatic altitude range, several distinct climate zone. Generally the north and interior are a temperate continental climate, while the south, at least near the sea, is subtropical. In January, 2008 China was impacted by a country-wide snowstorm which brought much of the country to a standstill, particularly affecting train travel from Guangzhou in southern China.[1][2][3][4] This event followed heavy snows earlier in the month which affected Iran and Afghanistan.[5] Portions of northwestern and western China are desert with settlement and agriculture centered on oases. Some natural oases such as Minqin have been affected by upstream water development and irrigation and fall in the level of ground water.[6]


Glaciers in the Tibetan region and other very high terrain of China are extensive, 51,840 square kilometers in 2002,[7] but are slowly receding due to global warming.[8] Data on Chinese glaciers is available at The Second Glacier Inventory Dataset of China (Version 1.0) (in Chinese, for the most part).

Three Gorges ProjectEdit

The Three Gorges Project on the Yangtze River is a huge dam which is part of planned hydropower development.

Problems in water managementEdit

China is facing many problems in managing its water resources. Flooding is still a major problem, demand for water is rapidly exceeding supply and water pollution has yet to be effectively controlled. The contamination of the Songhe River following an explosion at a Jilin chemical plant in November 2005 highlighted the extent of the water pollution problem. Algal blooms have occurred on 3 of its largest lakes, Lake Tai, Lake Chaohu, and Lake Dianchi. In January, 2008 the State Council promulgated a plan to address water pollution in its lakes. The plan proposes regulation of wastewater, closing of factories near lakes which release large amounts of wastewater, improvement of sewage treatment facilities, elimination of fish farms near major lakes affected by eutrophication and regulation of the siting of fish farms. Mediation of pollution in the lake behind the Three Gorges Dam and the use of pesticides with highly toxic residue and detergents containing phosphorus near large lakes are also addressed. As always in China, it is an open question whether a directive by the central government will be implemented by provincial and local authorities.[9]

As of 2013 China was prepared to make massive investments in infrastructure and had issued stringent water treatment regulations to attempt to deal with increasing problems of water shortages and pollution.[10]

Tarim BasinEdit

The Tarim Basin, a large endorheic drainage basins lies in a desert region in the west of China.

North China PlainEdit

Ground water is rapidly dropping in the North China Plain. Water is being pumped for cooling of power plants,[11] municipal water supplies, and for agriculture. The South-to-North Water Transfer Project, under construction, is projected to transfer vast amounts of water from South to North China.[12] In 2009 a major drought struck the region highlighting problems.[13]

Water qualityEdit

There are serious problems with water pollution in China which particularly affects fish farming.[14]

See alsoEdit


  1. "Video: China's Snow Worst in 50 Years" National Geographic News
  2. "Beautiful, Deadly Snows Paralyze China" National Geographic News, January 28, 2008
  3. "Freak Blizzards Leave 200,000 Stranded in China" William Foreman in Guangzhou, China, Associated Press, January 28, 2008
  4. "China Orders Relief Efforts, but Public Is Still Angry" article by Howard W. French in The New York Times January 31, 2008
  5. "Heavy Snow Kills Dozens in Asia" National Geographic News, January 10, 2008
  6. "Will the Desert Claim Minqin?" news in
  7. "China confirms its southern glaciers are disappearing" article by Christina Larson in Science 22 December 2014
  8. "The Second Glacier Inventory Dataset of China" Is Released Cold and Arid Region Environmental and Engineering Research Institute (CAREERI) Chinese Academy of Sciences December 16, 2014
  9. "China Offers Plan to Clean Up Its Polluted Lakes" article by Keith Bradsher in The New York Times January 23, 2008
  10. "China: High and dry: Water shortages put a brake on economic growth" article by Leslie Hook in The Financial Times May 14, 2013
  11. "Water Demands of Coal-Fired Power Drying Up Northern China: The coal industry withdraws 15 percent of China's water, much of it in arid northern China" article by Coco Liu and ClimateWire in Scientific American March 25, 2013
  12. "Beneath Booming Cities, China’s Future Is Drying Up" article by Jim Yardley in the New York Times September 28, 2007
  13. "Worst Drought in Half Century Shrivels the Wheat Belt of China" article by Michael Wines in The New York Times February 24, 2009
  14. "In China, Farming Fish in Toxic Waters" article by David Barboza in The New York Times December 15, 2007

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit

Original content adapted from the Wikipedia article "Water resources of China"

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