Over the past decade, China has engaged in all-round water management to ensure the water supply, optimize water allocation, improve flood and drought prevention, and improve the health of aquatic ecosystems.
The country has managed to raise nearly 20 percent of the world's population with only 6 percent of the world's fresh water, overcoming the difficulties brought by the uneven spatial and temporal distribution of water resources.
At a press conference on Tuesday, Minister of Water Resources Li Guoying said that China has controlled major floods in the past decade by continuously improving basin-based prevention systems, strengthening early-warning measures, drills and pre-planning, and using water conservancy infrastructure in a scientific and accurate manner.
The country's annual average losses caused by floods accounted for 0.31 percent of its GDP in the past decade, falling from 0.57 percent in the previous 10 years, Li said.
In tackling the unusually severe floods on several major rivers since last year, China has used thousands of large and medium-sized reservoirs with a flood retention capacity of 225.2 billion cubic meters, while 3,055 cities and towns and over 2.63 million hectares of farmland have been saved through the use of 12 flood retention areas.
This year, in the face of the worst drought in the Yangtze River basin since 1961, China has also ensured the water security of 13.85 million people and the irrigation of more than 1.9 million hectares of autumn grain by allocating water from reservoirs in the basin, Li said.
To achieve the balanced spatial allocation of water resources, China has sped up the construction of a batch of major water diversion projects in the past decade, Li said, giving the example of parts of the South-to-North Water Diversion Project, which transferred 56.5 billion cubic meters of water from the south to the arid north, benefitting 150 million people.
China is advancing the construction of a safe, efficient, green and orderly water system, Li added, noting that the total water supply capacity of the water conservancy projects increased to 890 billion cubic meters in 2021 from 700 billion cubic meters in 2012.
The country has also seen the rapid expansion of investment in water conservancy projects, with completed investment amounting to 6.66 trillion yuan (about 966 billion U.S. dollars) in the past decade, five times as much as that of the previous 10 years, according to Zhang Xiangwei, an official with the ministry.
This investment, supported a batch of key flood prevention projects in major river basins and the water management work in small and medium-sized rivers, facilitated risk elimination and reinforcement at reservoirs, and funded dozens of cross-basin and cross-region water diversion projects.
Water safety, protection
China has made notable progress on ensuring water security for rural residents and the supply of agricultural water resources over the past decade.
The country has guaranteed the safety of drinking water for 280 million rural residents and raised the penetration rate of rural tap water to 84 percent, said Chen Mingzhong, an official with the ministry.
By the end of 2021, 8.27 million rural water supply projects had been completed nationwide, able to serve 900 million people, Chen said.
In the past decade, over 7,000 large and medium-sized irrigation areas were built in China, with an effective irrigated farmland area of 69.13 million hectares, which accounted for 54 percent of the country's arable land and produced 75 percent of the country's grain, according to Li.
With limited water resources, water conservation has been high on China's agenda. Chen said that since the country released an action plan on water conservancy in 2019, efforts have been made on several fronts, including water conservation in agriculture, industry, urban areas and other key areas, as well as through sci-tech innovation.
In 2021, China's total water use was kept below 610 billion cubic meters, while water consumption per 10,000 yuan of GDP and water consumption per 10,000 yuan of industrial added value dropped by 45 percent and 55 percent from 2012, respectively, Chen added.
In addition to the promotion of more reasonable water consumption and the reduction of waste, the past decade has also witnessed China's strive to improve the quality of the water through ecological protection.
With over 1.2 million people appointed as river and lake chiefs in recent years, such bodies of water in China have benefitted from environmental protection. Precise measures can be taken to address water pollution and improve water ecology according to local conditions, Li said.
The country has also racked up achievements in resolving problems such as soil erosion and the over-exploitation of ground water in some areas, reviving the vitality of more and more aquatic systems.