BEIJING, Nov 5 (Reuters) - China suffers a water shortage of nearly 40 billion cubic metres a year which Water Resources Minister Chen Lei blamed largely on global warming, state media reported on Monday.
"The changes have led to a combination of both frequent drought and flooding," the China Daily newspaper quoted Chen as saying.
Although global warming has contributed to falling water tables in China, rising consumption both by farmers and booming cities, as well as severe pollution, have compounded shortages.
Decades of heavy industrialisation have made water from some lakes and rivers so polluted it is no longer useable, and tonnes of untreated waste are pumped directly into water sources.
Data also showed that rainfall in arid north China has been decreasing, the report said, adding that water resources in areas surrounding the Yellow, Huai, Hai and Liao rivers had dropped by about 12 percent.
"Seasonal water shortages in some of those areas are getting worse, seriously restricting sustainable social and economic development," the newspaper quoted an unnamed official as saying.
Water shortages have also been taking their toll on rice cultivation in China, the world’s top consumer and producer of the grain, leading to plans for it to expand acreage for a new kind of rice that can grow in dry soil.