China's other less-talked-about pollution problem — Water

Posted Mar 26, 2017 by Karen Graham
Mention air pollution and a lot of conversations would involve China. But there is another type of pollution that is reaching crisis levels in China — water pollution, along with a scarcity of water.
File photo: Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals can enter the environment through industrial and urban di...
File photo: Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals can enter the environment through industrial and urban discharges, agricultural run-off and the burning and release of waste. Photo: UNEP
United Nations Environmental Programme
The residents of Dawu in the central China province of Henan say they are being killed by their drinking water. The Ying River, a major tributary of the Huai River, passes close to the village and it has been heavily polluted for over ten years.
Local resident Wu Zongjun says the pollution has spread to underground basins and water they use for irrigation, reports CNN News. "(Now) there are people passing away due to cancer every year," he says, adding he personally knew over 20 people diagnosed in his village since 2010.
Seriously polluted along its entire length  in 2007 the Ying River’s water quality was rated as be...
Seriously polluted along its entire length, in 2007 the Ying River’s water quality was rated as below Grade 5 by the Chinese Environmental Protection Agency.
Now, this is not hearsay or the complaint of one villager, it is backed up by a study conducted by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention and published in 2014. The study showed a direct correlation between water pollution and cancer in the Huai River Basin in China over the last 30 years. But Dawu isn't the only village, nor is Henan the only province being confronted with a water pollution problem.
Water pollution and water scarcity has risen to crisis levels in China
Looking at the big picture, China has a population of some 1.35 billion people - That's 21 percent of the world's population. However, China has only seven percent of the world's freshwater supplies, according to the United Nations. Additionally, the North China Plain is home to about 42 percent of China's population but only has eight percent of the country's water resources.
Shanghai  like many other Chinese cities  depends on surface water that is heavily polluted  such as...
Shanghai, like many other Chinese cities, depends on surface water that is heavily polluted, such as the Huangpu River shown here whose water comes through Suzhou Creek from the heavily polluted Lake Tai.
Jakub Halan (CC BY-SA 3.0)
To put all this in perspective, China has about the same amount of available freshwater as Canada but 40 percent more people. The amount of water available to each person in northern China comes to about one-fourth the global average. Water scarcity has also hit major cities, including the capital, Beijing.
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With water being scarce, there is the added problem of pollution. In a report issued in 2014 by China's land and resources ministry, after testing it was found that among 4,778 testing spots in 203 cities, 44 percent had “relatively poor” underground water quality; while the groundwater in another 15.7 percent tested as “very poor."
Not only is water pollution a major problem in China today  but water scarcity is becoming a real th...
Not only is water pollution a major problem in China today, but water scarcity is becoming a real threat.
Facts abd Figures
In other words, about 60 percent of the water in China is unfit to drink, although A land ministry report from 2014 was more blunt, saying that 70 percent of the groundwater in the north China plain, where 42 percent of the population lives, is unfit for human consumption.
Some of the causes of water pollution in China
Without a doubt, the major driver behind polluted water in China has been shared by rapid industrial growth and agricultural growth. In 2015, Digital Journal reported that agriculture had taken over first place as the biggest cause of pollution of China's freshwater supplies.
Smoke belches from a coal-fired power station near Datong  in China's northern Shanxi province
Smoke belches from a coal-fired power station near Datong, in China's northern Shanxi province
Greg Baker, AFP/File
As China stepped up its industrial output, at the same time it was polluting the air with toxic fumes and its rivers and streams with toxic chemicals and other effluents. But the march toward becoming a major player on the world's economic stage continued. Agriculture became big business, with small farms becoming parts of commercial operations that fixated on meeting government goals for production.
This focus resulted in the overuse of fertilizers and pesticides. By 2015, chemical fertilizer use had increased 5.2 percent a year, with growers using 805 pounds per 2.5 acres of vegetables. The World Health Organization (WHO) showed that in the U.S., growers used 289 pounds for the same amount of land, and in Spain, growers used 274 pounds.
So between toxic chemicals from factories and agricultural runoff going into rivers, streams and other waterways, it didn't take long for groundwater sources to become undrinkable. Now, China has a dual problem of trying to reduce pollution levels in the air and the water before the country spirals downward and further into a major humanitarian crisis.