The operators of the Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River have pushed back filling the reservoir for winter storage for a week to discharge more water for drought-stricken areas downstream, Xinhua reports.
Nearly 1.5 million people in the Hunan, Jiangxi and Guangdong provinces have reported drinking water shortages over the last month.
The reservoir is filled in the autumn to prepare for the dry season, which runs from December to March. Winter releases then drop the water level by 30 meters, providing space to regulate the spring and summer flood season.
Drought conditions and perpetual water shortage are the driving forces behind China’s latest large infrastructure project, the South-North Water Transfer Project, which will redirect water hundreds of miles across the country through three routes.
Government officials began resettling 300,000 people in Henan and Hubei provinces to clear the path for the middle route last week, AFP reported.
The project will move water via eastern, middle and western routes to cities and farmers in the north. The middle and eastern routes were scheduled to be completed by 2010, but resettlement and environmental complications have pushed the date to 2014, according to AFP.
The three routes combined will be able to transfer nearly 45 billion cubic meters (BCM) of water per year, according to a report by the Chinese Ministry of Water Resources.
Some international institutions argue that supply infrastructure alone will not solve China’s water problems. The World Bank issued a report earlier this year calling for better governance and water pricing in the country.
Scarcity has already forced price reforms in Beijing until water from the middle route of the South-North project arrives in 2014.
Read more from Circle of Blue about water views in China
Brett writes about agriculture, energy, infrastructure, and the politics and economics of water in the United States. He also writes the Federal Water Tap, Circle of Blue’s weekly digest of U.S. government water news. He is the winner of two Society of Environmental Journalists reporting awards, one of the top honors in American environmental journalism: first place for explanatory reporting for a series on septic system pollution in the United States(2016) and third place for beat reporting in a small market (2014). Brett lives in Seattle, where he hikes the mountains and bakes pies. Contact Brett Walton