Double Choke Point: Demand for Energy Tests Water Supply and Economic Stability in China and the U.S.

The cords of energy demand and water supply are tightening around the world’s two largest economies.

Originally posted on the CSRwire website.

By Keith Schneider, Circle of Blue

The coal mines of Inner Mongolia, China and the oil and gas fields of the northern Great Plains in the United States are separated by 11,200 kilometers (7,000 miles) of ocean and 5,600 kilometers (3,500 miles) of land.

But, in form and function, the two fossil fuel development zones — the newest and largest in both nations — are illustrations of the escalating clash between energy demand and freshwater supplies that confront the stability of the world’s two biggest economies. How each nation responds could have profound implications for their domestic energy and food markets, and for economic stability across the globe.

Read More

04:07 pm by csrwiretalkback[8 notes]

Energy Economy Brings Change to Shepherd Life: Modernization Comes to the Dry Grasslands of Inner Mongolia

The northern city of Xilinhot is booming as the coal industry expands. But it will take a lot of water to feed both the city and mining.

Originally posted on the CSRwire website.

By Carl Ganter, Circle of Blue

Wu Yun, 23, tucks in her mittens and pulls on furry boots to help her father feed the livestock, as a frigid blast of razor-sharp ice crystals - some of them blackened from the dust of nearby open-pit coal mines - rolls across the horizon, stopping only to swirl and tear at exposed flesh. She hunkers down, unlatches the gate and lets the sheep out to graze on the fragile, brown stubble.

Read More

04:20 pm by csrwiretalkback[7 notes]

Off the Deep End - Beijing’s Water Demand Outpaces Supply Despite Conservation, Recycling and Imports

How China’s capital got in over its head, and what the city is doing to get its water crisis under control.

Originally posted on the CSRwire website.

By Nadya Ivanova, Circle of Blue

Perennial drought, overuse and pollution have left Beijing struggling to meet the growing water demands of its soaring economy, which is expanding by more than 11 percent per year on average. Its drying rivers and lakes, along with falling water tables, are enduring water deficits that force the city to suck millions of cubic meters (billions of gallons) in emergency transfers from neighboring provinces - which, in turn, depletes their water supplies - thereby draining agricultural and economic opportunities.

In essence, Beijing is at the bull’s-eye of a potentially ruinous collision between accelerating growth and scarce freshwater reserves that is unfolding in China’s dry and resource-rich northern provinces. Beijing’s municipal government, though, is acting with authority and some speed to avoid a water crisis. The city is relocating thirsty industries to the coast, regulating water prices and cutting back on irrigated farmland. Beijing also is setting nationally significant standards for retrofitting sewage treatment systems to recycle wastewater for use in flushing toilets, washing cars, greening urban parks, cooling thermal power plants and other gray-water applications.

Read More

05:25 pm by csrwiretalkback[25 notes]

Water, Water Everywhere And Not A Drop To Drink

Can better water governance between citizen, state and business solve the scarcity crisis?

By Philip Monaghan

Water is essential to our survival. It makes up between half and three quarters of the human body weight, needs to be topped up on a regular basis and we cannot go without it for more than about week. As well as drinking it, we also use water for cooking and sanitation, not to mention industrial processes. But more often than not in the West, we treat it with disdain, a fact reflected in its low price and how the developed world fritters it away (you may leave the kitchen tap running into an unplugged sink at home but you would not pour petrol from the station pump down the drain).

What makes matters worse is, despite 70% of the Earth’s surface being covered by water, only 2.5% of the total volume is freshwater resources and fit for human consumption. Coupled with the facts from the WBCSD and FAO that in 60% of European cities with more than 100,000 people, groundwater is being used at a faster rate than it can be replenished. By 2025, 1.8 billion people will be living in countries or regions with absolute water scarcity, and two thirds of the world population could be under stress conditions.

Read More

07:41 pm by csrwiretalkback[1 note]

Circle of Blue’s China Tour Finds Strong Reception for Water-Energy Choke Point Warning

Circle of Blue and the Wilson Center’s China Environment Forum present at 17 events in four cities over 16 days.

Originally posted on the CSRwire website.

By Keith Schneider, Circle of Blue

Since mid-February, in probing weekly reports from our Choke Point: China series, Circle of Blue and the China Environment Forum of the Washington-based Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars have for the first time revealed the increasingly fierce competition between energy and water that threatens to upend China’s progress.

In late March, the two organizations arrived in Beijing for the start of a 16-day trip that took three reporters from Circle of Blue and two researchers from the China Environment Forum to Beijing and Shanghai in eastern China and then to Chengdu and Yinchuan, in the nation’s south and west. The tour, supported by the Energy Foundation and Vermont Law School, also included Adam Moser, the China Environment Fellow at Vermont Law School, who joined us at events in Beijing and Shanghai.

Read More

08:24 pm by csrwiretalkback[5 notes]

Water Pipeline Could Open China’s Northern Coal Fields

Proposed long-distance desalination project seen as a must for modernization.

Originally posted on the CSRwire website.

By Keith Schneider, Circle of Blue

Sixty-year-old geographer Huo Youguang, a professor in the Center for Environment and Modern Agriculture Engineering at Xi’an Jiaotong University in Xhanxi Province, thinks he has a solution for China’s geographic mismatch: drop a pipe into the Bohai Sea, draw more than 340,000 cubic meters (90 million gallons) of seawater a day into a complex of coastal desalination plants, and then pump it 1,400 meters uphill for more than 600 kilometers (nearly 400 miles) to Xilinhot, where it will be used for coal mining operations.

Read More

01:47 pm by csrwiretalkback[13 notes]

China’s Mammoth Plan to Double Hydropower Generation by 2020

Water-rich southwest region, though, is getting dryer.

Originally posted on the CSRwire website.

By Rachel Beitarie, Circle of Blue

The hydropower dam construction program in southwest China has no equal anywhere in the world.

Here in Suijiang County, a remote and mountainous region on the border between Sichuan and Yunnan provinces, the immense scope of the most aggressive dam-building program in history is immediately apparent. Near the county’s center, an army of men and equipment is building the Xiangjiaba Hydropower Dam, a wall of concrete and steel 909 meters (2,982 feet) long and 161 meters (528 feet) high. When it’s completed in 2015, the dam will house eight turbines capable of generating just over 6,400 megawatts. It will be the fourth-largest hydropower plant in China and one of the 20 largest power plants of any kind in the world, according to industry figures.

Immense as it is, the Xiangjiaba Dam is just one of a dozen hydropower projects of similar size that have been approved for the Jinsha River. Taken together, the 12 Jinsha River dams will be capable of generating 59,000 megawatts, or nearly as much power as all 4,000 hydroelectric generating stations in thee United States.

In the latest chapter of Circle of Blue’s Choke Point: China series, Beijing-based Rachel Beitarie writes about China’s mammoth program to, by 2020, double the amount of electricity produced from flowing water, as well as the consequences this program is having on communities, families and the environment. Along the upper Yangtze River and five tributaries that drain China’s midsection, 100 big dams are in various stages of planning, engineering and construction. Additionally, at least 43 big dams are in the same stages of development on the Lancang, Nujiang, Hongshui and Jiulong rivers in southwest China.

Big Risk, Big Reward

The stakes for China’s dam-building campaign encompass every sector of the economy, and it marks a historical and ecological heritage that spans seven southern provinces. The provincial and central government leaders who support China’s program to tame wild rivers behind concrete, steel and stone assert hydropower provides considerable benefits to reduce air pollution, rein in coal consumption and generate electricity for fast-growing cities and industries.

Opponents say dams are wrecking treasured canyons, ruining fisheries and displacing hundreds of thousands of residents. Some critics worry too many of China’s new big dams are being built in a seismically active region that has experienced a number of big earthquakes, including one in May 2008 that killed 80,000 people in Sichuan Province. Just as significantly, opponents note China is counting on generating a considerable portion of its energy from rivers in southern China that, because of climate change, say scientists, are experiencing longer and more numerous droughts that are lowering water levels.

Read more about China’s hydropower development on Circle of Blue.

About Rachel Beitarie

Rachel is a Beijing-based Israeli reporter. This is her article for Circle of Blue.

For Circle of Blue’s complete coverage of China’s water-energy challenge, check out the Choke Point: China page on Circle of Blue.

Photographs by Toby Smith/Reportage by Getty Images for Circle of Blue

Talkback Readers: Will this big risk reap big rewards - or will Mother Nature root against China’s ambitious hydropower development? Dive in and share on Talkback!

07:31 pm by csrwiretalkback[32 notes]

China Responds to Explosive Growth, Pollution and Water Scarcity in Latest Five-Year Plan

Is momentum for runaway development too powerful to restrain?

Originally posted on the CSRwire website.

By Keith Schneider and Nadya Ivanova, Circle of Blue

In an era of economic turmoil that has produced massive unemployment, accelerated industrial decline and sowed fear and doubt across much of North America and Europe, China last week offered a much different lesson on growth and development.

In the latest draft of its new 12th Five-Year Plan to manage the world’s fastest growing industrial economy, China’s leadership called for restraining runaway growth that is raising incomes of more than 400 million people, but is also drawing China ever closer to a potentially calamitous confrontation over energy, water and the quality of the nation’s environment.

As part of its Choke Point: China series, Circle of Blue this week describes in detail the 12th Five-Year Plan, which sets a new limit on energy consumption in order to spur efficiency and conservation measures. But the plan also envisions record high levels of water use, which is expected to rise to 620 billion cubic meters (163 trillion gallons) by 2015 — up from 599 billion cubic meters (158 trillion gallons) in 2010 — and as much as 670 billion cubic meters (177 trillion gallons) by the end of the decade. The restraints on coal production, which supplies 70 percent of the nation’s energy and is the largest industrial consumer of fresh water, will serve to keep water use from climbing even higher.

Largest and Fastest — Is Restraint Possible?

But it is not at all clear China’s provincial and industrial leaders — never mind the hundreds of millions of workers benefiting from modernization — will be eager to comply with the goals of the new development strategy.

During extensive reporting in December for the Choke Point: China series, Circle of Blue found a nation that grumbles about pollution, inflation and corruption, but also is tremendously enthusiastic about modernization and the economic opportunities it has provided.

The restraints on economic growth described in the 12th Five-Year Plan come in the midst of a massive and politically popular economic transition that is rapidly converting China’s economy from its previous focus on export-related revenue to one devoted to building domestic markets.

Just to name a few, China now has either the fastest growing or largest markets in the world for:

  • Cars
  • Steel
  • Cement
  • Glass
  • Residential housing
  • Rail construction
  • Fossil fuel energy
  • Highway development
  • Power plant construction
  • Grain production

Read more of the Choke Point: China series at Circle of Blue.

Photo: © J. Carl Ganter/Circle of Blue

Talkback Readers: Will momentum for runaway development be too powerful to restrain? Share your thoughts on Talkback!

04:31 pm by csrwiretalkback[5 notes]

Water rights transfers and high-tech power plants hold off energy-water clash in northern China

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

Talkback Readers: Is China’s agriculture-to-industry water transfer program ‘liquid’ enough to solve some of the critical water stresses in the north? Tell us on Talkback!

04:34 pm by csrwiretalkback[12 notes]

A Dry and Anxious North Awaits China’s Giant Water Transport Scheme

Authorities anticipate approval for new western line to tap energy reserves.

Originally posted on the CSRwire website.

By Aaron Jaffe and Keith Schneider, Circle of Blue

Talk about the mother of all water projects. In 2014 some 9.6 billion cubic meters of water a year (2.5 trillion gallons) will pour through the immense tunnels under construction in Henan Province in northern China, and be sent north to help curb water shortages in more than a dozen cities, including Beijing.

A second line of China’s South-North Water Transfer Project should already be operating by then, transporting 14.8 billion cubic meters of water annually from the lower Yangtze River to Tianjin.

And this month, in its new 12th Five-Year Plan, the official guide to national development, China is expected to approve construction planning for a third “western” line, according to interviews Circle of Blue conducted with several authorities close to the project. The western line will transport 8 billion more cubic meters of water annually from the Himalayan region in the west to supply the upper and middle reaches of the Yellow River in the north.

Taken together, reports Circle of Blue in the latest chapter of its Choke Point: China series, the three lines of the South-North Water Project are an audacious strategy to solve a commanding threat to China’s modernization: the increasingly dire confrontation between rising energy demand in a nation that is steadily getting drier. China’s plan is to eventually remove 36 billion cubic meters of water every year (9.5 trillion gallons) from the Yangtze River Basin, which drains much of the nation’s central and western regions, and ship it north. That is tantamount to reversing the flow of the Missouri River, which drains the Great Plains and part of the Northwest in the United States, and sending it back to Montana.

It’s no surprise ever since construction began in 2002, the South-North Water Project has generated a strong current of public comment. China’s government authorities insist the project, now estimated to cost $US 62 billion, is essential to developing cities and energy-rich provinces of northern and western China, the fastest growing regions in the country, which are running out of water.

"Transferring water from the south to north makes perfect sense," said Wang Hao, director of the Water Resources Department at the state-run China Institute of Water Resources and Hydropower Research in Beijing, and one of China’s most influential government water scientists.

Wei Zhimin, a water expert in Hebei Province within a unit of the Ministry of Water Resources, said last year in an interview with Xiaoxiang Evening News that the South-North Project would not solve north China’s water crisis, but was nevertheless essential.

"Lifeline is one word to describe it," Wei said. "And by lifeline I mean a lifeline for north China, Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei included."

But the project’s critics - among them academics, economists and environmental leaders - assert that the magnitude and cost of building and operating the continental water transport system would produce a cascade of unintended consequences that could overwhelm benefits to China.

These consequences include much higher municipal, agricultural and industrial water prices, damage to aquatic environments, more treatment facilities for Yangtze water that is currently too polluted to use and continuing water shortages in northern China, and possibly in southern China, too. Most importantly, reports Circle of Blue, water from the South-North project won’t relieve the serious choke point that’s developed in the northern coal-rich provinces where China can’t tap new reserves because of ongoing water scarcity.

"We should take no pride in doing such a project," said Ma Jun, an author and director of the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, a non-governmental organization in Beijing. “This is a moment for us, a sobering moment for us, to reflect upon how we drove ourselves to such a situation.”

Read more of the Choke Point: China series at Circle of Blue.

Talkback Readers: Will Chinese authorities, led by Ma Jun’s example, take time to reflect on their country’s water crisis? Or will the South-North Water Project scorch any sustainability measures? Share your thoughts on Talkback!

06:12 pm by csrwiretalkback[16 notes]



CSRwire is the leading source of corporate social responsibility (CSR) and sustainability news, reports, events and information.

CSRwire Talkback is hosted by Francesca Rheannon, Managing Editor, and Sarah Peyok, Director of Editorial.


Talkback brings thought leaders and readers together to discuss many topics in these two areas:

Corporate Social Responsibility - business ethics, shareholder activism, corporate governance and public policy

Sustainability - green living, human rights, the environment and social enterprise

CSRwire on Twitter

    via Twitter

    Most Recent Posts