Choke Point: China is an on-the-ground report that displays in text, photographs, and interactive graphics the powerful evidence of a potentially ruinous confrontation between growth, water, and energy that is already visible across China; a confrontation that is virtually certain to grow more dire over the next decade.
Keith Schneider: Circle of Blue is a news organization that uses science, data, design, and collaboration and convening in order to produce solutions to our most important problems, one of which is water scarcity on the planet.
Our latest global project is Choke Point: China. China is getting dry at the same time as its energy demand is increasing at a momentum never before seen on the planet. We sent four teams of reporters to China; they went to 10 provinces, and we were there. We collected data and we produced a narrative in two parts — we had a good news story and a bad news story.
The good news story is that China has increased its water consumption by only 1 percent a year — 15 percent since 1995, the same years its economy grew eight-fold. And they did this by amassing an enormous amount of technology, public policy, entrepreneurs around water conservation and energy efficiency, and new technology. And they were able to convince their citizenry that as a nation they could begin to solve a significant problem of water scarcity.
The bad news story is that it’s a nation that’s growing in a way that has never been seen before. So everything that it’s doing isn’t going to solve the choke point that we identified for the first time for China — that in their northern and western provinces, which are their energy provinces and also their driest regions in the country — they are facing a very significant energy shortage, not because they don’t have the energy, but because they don’t have the water to develop the energy. And unless they solve that, it’s going to have global implications because anything China does today has implications for every nation on Earth, including the United States.
Video production by Travis Miller. Photos by J. Carl Ganter and Aaron Jaffe. Graphics by students at Ball State University.