China Pipeline Map

Infographic: China’s South-North Water Transfer Project

Authorities close to the central government say the western line will be built.

From the 2,500-year-old, 5,500-mile Great Wall of China to the Three Gorges Dam in 2008—which generates as much electricity as 25 big coal-fired plants and holds back 600 kilometers (375 miles) of the Yangtze River—infrastructure projects designed to solve big national problems and that achieve otherworldly scale are a cultural priority as old as China.

Likewise, government officials see the opening of the South-North Water Transfer Project as an answer to water scarcity that is coming at just the right time. The basic math looks good. But the complex and expensive replumbing of an entire nation could prove exceedingly difficult to operate.

Map and graphic © Ball State University for Circle of Blue
Click through the interactive infographic to see how China’s plans to divert vast waterways have developed over the last 30 years and preview what the next 40 years could look like.

Map and graphic by Stephanie Stamm, Justin Manning, Stephanie Meredith, and Kate Roesch, undergraduate students at Ball State University.

With contribution by Nadya Ivanova, a Chicago-based reporter for Circle of Blue, and Jennifer Turner, director of the China Environment Forum within the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Reach Ivanova at

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