Center for a New American Security: China’s Water-Energy Challenge

Will Rogers of the Center for a New American Security writes:

Last month, Circle of Blue reported on the cascading effect that China’s energy demand is having on water scarcity. “Underlying China’s new standing in the world is an increasingly fierce competition between energy and water that threatens to upend China’s progress,” Circle of Blue’s Keith Schneider wrote. As Schneider pointed out, China’s history is fraught with challenges stemming from scarce fresh water resources, writing that it is nothing new for a state where “80 percent of the rainfall and snowmelt occurs in the south, while just 20 percent of the moisture occurs in the mostly desert regions of the north and west.” But what is different, Schneider noted, is the expanding industrial sector that consumes 70 percent of the nation’s water, and the need for the government to tap into its coal reserves in the north in order to feed this growth. The problem is that mining coal and coal-fired power plants themselves are water-intensive, and according to government officials, “there is not enough water to mine, process, and consume those [coal] reserves, and still develop the modern cities and manufacturing centers that China envisions for the region.”

In January, Schneider published a related story arguing that, with the United States experiencing similar challenges related to what he refers to as energy demand and water scarcity choke points, the United States and China have an opportunity to share technologies and policies that could help mitigate these challenges.

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