China acts on looming crisis with ambitious water conservation and transfer program.
Originally posted on the CSRwire website.
By Nadya Ivanova, Circle of Blue
On a flat and desolate expanse of alkaline desert along the Yellow River in northern China, a mammoth new industrial model to generate energy and save water is rapidly taking shape. The Ningdong Energy and Heavy Chemical Industry Base, as it is called, is a bustling Lego set of energy infrastructure. Bulldozers, workers and cranes snap together standardized parts, churning out colossal cooling towers, candy-striped chimneys and stick-figure transmission towers and lines for the world’s most advanced coal-fired power plants, coal-to-chemical refineries and coal mines.
The phalanx of energy installations, with mines and roads spanning nearly 3,500 square kilometers, takes advantage of two vital resources: a coal reserve underneath the base - China’s sixth largest reserve - and a ready source of water in the Yellow River 35 kilometers away.
In the fourth chapter of its Choke Point: China series, Circle of Blue focuses on China’s capacity and modernization program to fuel itself with coal without running out of water.
Since 2003, when it was launched, the Ningdong energy base has been at the center of China’s plan to consolidate its primary energy-producing sector, building coal-to-chemical refineries and coal-fired power plants in closer proximity to the coal mines in its northern and northwestern regions.
Ningdong also takes advantage of an ambitious water conservation and transfer program that requires new industries in the northwestern region of Ningxia to invest in lining and repairing irrigation canals in exchange for the right to use Yellow River water. The upgrade annually saves millions of cubic meters (billions of gallons) of agricultural water that then get transferred to power plants in the province.
A similar program has been operating in Inner Mongolia, the largest coal-producer in China. Between Ningxia and Inner Mongolia, the water conservation program has saved about 300 million cubic meters since 2005. And, experts say, it’s part of China’s effort to hold off a looming confrontation between its scarce water reserves and growing coal-based industrial sector, and ensure that it can continue to be the fastest growing economy in the world.
It also signals unprecedented changes in China’s water management that are seen by government and industry leaders as essential to solving some of the critical water stresses in the north.
About Nadya Ivanova
Nadya, who has reported from China, Europe and the United States, is a reporter and producer for Circle of Blue. Since 2006, she has been traveling back and forth between her native Bulgaria and Chicago, where studied journalism and International Studies at the Medill School of Journalism, Northwestern University. Before joining Circle of Blue, Nadya interned at bTV, the major national TV channel of Bulgaria. She is one of the winners of the European Young Journalist Award 2009.
Read more of the Choke Point: China series at Circle of Blue.
Photo: © Aaron Jaffe/Circle of Blue
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