John Gates on water issues in China

“China has approximately 10% economic growth per year and has all the associated environmental problems,” said hydrogeologist John Gates. He talked to EarthSky about water quality problems such as increasing salinity, nitrate pollution, and falling water tables in northern China.

John Gates: China has approximately 10% economic growth per year and has all the associated environmental problems. Water is a major issue in China with respect to water quality and quantity.

That’s hydrogeologist John Gates at the University of Texas at Austin. He returned recently from China, where he conducted water research on the North China plain.

John Gates: This is part of the ‘Chinese breadbasket’ if you will, in that much of their domestic food production is grown in the area. And as a result the demands for water resources are intense. We see some of the common symptoms that we see in this country.

Gates is talking about problems like increasing salinity, nitrate pollution, and falling water tables in northern China. He and his colleagues are studying how water there moves around, and the processes affecting the water chemistry.

John Gates: When you look at the pie chart of water use in most countries, agriculture is almost always the most significant chunk, and so when we talk about water use and water efficiency, we have to start from the perspective of agriculture.

Nearly 90% of today’s global fresh water supply is used for food production.

Our thanks to:

John Gates
Postdoctoral Fellow, Bureau of Economic Geology
University of Texas
Austin, TX

Lindsay Patterson