Report suggests China's massive water transfer project is not worth the cost

Posted on 21 August 2001   |  

Beijing - As the Central Government prepares to make its decision on whether to go ahead with a massive water transfer project, WWF China has produced a report suggesting alternatives be reconsidered.

China’s South-North Water Transfer Scheme plans to transfer 19.5 billion cubic metres of water from Yangtze River in south to Huanghe River basin in the north in the first stage of the project to alleviate the North’s serious water shortage. The proposed project involves engineering work of colossal scale and cost, the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people, and fundamental changes to the ecological functioning of the two river systems.

WWF China’s report analyses the reasons behind the plans and assesses the expected costs and benefits in relation to other possible approaches. It suggests that the water transfer project is too costly for the public to afford. The cost of providing water through any component of the south–north transfer scheme would make its use for irrigation uneconomic, even if grain prices trebled.

Water saving was also found to be less costly than the proposed water transfer. Provisional calculations show that water saving measures could more than double the amount of water to be transferred in the first stage of the project, reaching 39 billion cubic metres.

Also the report states the forecast of water demand used in the project’s planning is not reliable if technological development and population decrease are taken into consideration. While per capita water use in China is expected to rise to levels of industrialised European countries, water re-use will also be much higher. The potential for cautious optimism is further increased by the fact that China’s population is expected to fall during the second half of the 21st century as the consequence of the current “one child per family” policy.

The report suggested China’s government should reconsider its plan on the water transfer. Instead they could use alternate approaches to meeting water demand such as building an incentive management system for water use, revitalizing the water price system, adjusting agricultural structure, improving wastewater treatment and reducing leakage from urban distribution systems.

For more information please contact

Chris Chaplin, Communications Officer, WWF China
+86 10 6511 6237,


blog comments powered by Disqus