Video: Confronting Water Scarcity & Energy Demand in China

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.

2 replies
  1. Terry Spragg says:

    China has political and physical access to a large and untapped source of fresh water in North Korea that it has not recognized. This North Korean water source can be developed much cheaper than building desalination plants or over land pipelines and canals by using waterbag transport technology. China and North Korea will develop large fabric pipelines through the sea capable of transporting hundreds of millions of gallons of fresh water per day using waterbag technology. This is a simple and inexpensive theory to test. China and North Korea will create history by introducing the waterbag transport system and waterbag storage technology to Asia. The following YouTube video of television news coverage of a demonstration of this technology in Washington State explains how this technology can be implemented and duplicated in North Korea and China. This YouTube demonstration should be duplicated in China and North Korea. This is an easy and inexpensive demonstration to accomplish And waterbag technology is much less damaging to the environment than building desalination plants and buidling dams and over-land pipelines.
    See: For photos see
    When North Korea begins to transport its abundant water supplies to Northern China using waterbag technology, its abundant water supplies will become as valuable to North Korea as oil is to the Middle East. And to North Korea’s advantage water is an annually renewable resource for North Korea. Using water as an exportable natural resource will generate significant wealth for North Korea that it never recognized it had. China will help North Korea achieve this goal because of the value of this untapped renewable water resource for China. The geopolitical ramafications of this historic event will have worldwide implications. The United States and other nations in Asia should be made aware of this coming event at the highest levels of business and politics. North Korea will be able to develop a natural resource that is inexpensive and easy to transport that will allow it to play a political role on the world stage. The United States should help China and North Korea develop this resource and this technology.

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