Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects engineering hydrology and hydraulics with global, economic, environmental, and societal issues. Our student, Li Ting Huang, makes this connection here…

This article entitled, “Toxic Water: Across Much of China, Huge Harvests Irrigated with Industrial and Agricultural Runoff” was reported by the Circle of Blue Water News and published in their January 18, 2013 online news.  The news relates to the WRE domain of hydrology and the specific issue of water quality.  In brief, this news article reports on the severe water pollution and water scarcity problem in mainland China.  One of china’s biggest environmental problems is water.  As stated by a recent Chinese government report, nearly 70% of rivers, rivers, and other waterways in China are severely contaminated; and more than 75% of the water from China’s rivers and streams are not suitable for human use.  Some major contaminators contain chemical factories, drug manufactures, fertilizer makers, and tanneries.  The article mentioned that due to usable water shortage, farmers have no choice but to use those contaminated water sources to irrigate crops.  This has brought up a deep concern among the Chinese citizens on food safety issue.  The serious water pollution issue has also raised public attention, and Environmental NGOs were innovated to use water samples, fresh data, and laws to pressurize local government to release water pollution information.


Figure 1 – A stream was contaminated with wastes and trashes on the bank of the Yellow River in Lanzhou, China.

The hydrology issue of water pollution addressed in this article impacts a broader WRE context area of economic.  China is known as the world’s largest grain producer.  However, due to the extremely polluted water, crops died after being irrigated.  According to the China’s Ministry of Land and Resources, those heavy metal pollutions destroy nearly 10 million metric tons of grain and contaminated about 12 million metric tons of grain annually.  This causes China billions of dollars in direct losses every year from agriculture.  In addition, water quality issue in China is very important because it’s affecting security of China’s food supplies which has a huge global impact since China is exporting a lot of its crops annual to the world. 


Figure 2 – Water quality map of China.