Bursting The Irvine Bubble: China’s Water Problem

China has a plumbing problem. Actually, it has a pollution problem mixed with a daunting water crisis. The country that is currently second in the world’s economy is one of the 13 countries with the most severe water shortages. China is such a powerful country, yet something doesn’t seem right. But let’s not forget that this nation houses 20 percent of the world’s population and is booming with industry. It is only natural that man fucked the environment.

The Yangtze River, a main vein of China’s river system, now flows a vibrant blood red. In December 2011, the river was first coated red when an illegal workshop dumped red dye into the city’s storm pipe, which was connected to the river. The river still flows a haunting crimson.

A little dye may seem harmless, but if the river it is flowing into constitutes six percent of the water for the entire country, it’s not so easy to ignore. And the dye isn’t made up of organic, biodegradable cherry powder. It consists of dangerous chemicals — chemicals that hurt the living creatures of the river, chemicals that hurt the surrounding plant life and of course, chemicals that hurt the people near the river.

As we all learned in sixth grade science, water goes through the hydrologic cycle. If you don’t remember the sixth grade, the hydrologic cycle is how the system in which the earth’s water circulates. Water doesn’t come out of nowhere, so that means that an Arrowhead water bottle could be, and most likely is, the chemical descendent of purified dinosaur piss.

The environment knows what it is doing and it knows more than you and me. I’m interested to find out what natural disaster must occur for the world to wake up to the abuse of our natural surroundings. I’m sure this is the part where you question why you have read this hippie liberal column all quarter, but I don’t mind. This is about water. China’s water is your water, too. This concerns you.

Nature has the ability to control everything — food, water, what you’re going to wear on a date — and humans are making Nature turn against us. Cue the Yangtze River. Pour unnatural chemicals into it, and Nature is going to come back at you when you go for a drink of that stuff that keeps you living. And China is in desperate need of water. The nation’s demand is projected to reach 818 billion cubic meters, but there are only 616 billion cubic meters available. That’s a dilemma if I’ve ever heard one, and they’re not talking about Twinkies.

To give a narrower example, Beijing currently has 100 cubic meters of water per person per year, which is significantly below the UN standard of 1,000 cubic meters. I can shave it down even more and tell you that 100 cubic meters equal roughly to about 25 bathtubs of water per person. The U.S. has about 125.

However, China recognizes their problem and aims to fix it. China wants to cut water consumption by 30 percent. Experts say that their goal is difficult to reach, but I don’t think so. There are simple tweaks to certain ways of life that can make a large impact.

Now, I don’t want anyone to go have a heart attack over this statement, but just to put things into perspective, according to “The Wall Street Journal,” it takes about 630 gallons of water to produce one hamburger. Can we survive without hamburgers? Probably. Can we survive without water? No.

Cleo Tobbi is a fourth-year literary journalism major. She can be reached at ctobbi@uci.edu.