China says water supplies exploited by 2030

BEIJING (Reuters) - China will have exploited all available water supplies to the limit by 2030, the government has warned, ordering officials to prepare for worse to come as global warming and economic expansion drain lakes and rivers.

As well, a state newspaper warned on Friday that drought next year could hit crops and stoke already heady inflation.

China’s surface and underground water supplies are under strain from feverish economic growth and a population passing 1.3 billion. And scarcity will worsen with global warming, the central government warned in a directive.

“In recent years economic and social development has led to increasing water demand, and with the impact of global warming, drought and water scarcity are increasingly grave,” said a directive issued by the office of the State Council, or cabinet, late on Thursday.

“Taking into full account water-saving, by 2030 our country’s water use will reach or approach the total volume of exploitable water resources, and the drought-fighting situation will be increasingly serious.”

The document on the government Web site ( urges officials to make emergency plans for coping with drought and promises more spending on water-saving technology and artificial rain-making. Local governments must also develop policies to aid and compensate drought-hit farmers.

China has about 7 percent of the planet’s water resources to nourish a fifth of the global population, the government has estimated. Scientists have said that by 2030, China’s potential grain output could fall by 10 percent, unless crop varieties and practices adapt to climate change.

China is at the centre of international talks in Bali struggling to agree on a framework for future negotiations on an international pact to fight global warming.

But drought is already a chronic burden for many farmers, especially in the country’s west. An official newspaper said on Friday that drought next year could cut crops and stoke already heady inflation.

The country’s consumer inflation hit an 11-year-high at 6.9 percent in November, fuelled largely by rising prices for foods.

The People’s Daily, mouthpiece of the ruling Communist Party, said drought in the south in 2008 could add to pressure on the national “food basket.”

“Localized regional drought is extremely likely to have the same effect as yanking one hair to pull the whole body,” the report said, using a traditional saying.

With winter crops in southern China already hit by drought, the paper said, “we must take this seriously and avoid setting hidden perils for next year’s agricultural production growth, especially cereals.”

Contradicting officials’ recent assurances that increased farm production next year was likely to dampen inflation, the People’s Daily said extended drought in the south could drive down crop yields and drive up food prices.

“The problem of prices at the end of this year and early next merits serious attention,” it said.

China could call on its massive stockpile of foreign exchange reserves, which stood at $1.455 trillion at the end of October, to shop around the world for more food, a planning official said on Thursday.

Editing by Roger Crabb