UCLA Dept. of Civil & Environmental Engineering

2009 Birdsall-Dreiss Distinguished Lecture
Sponsored by the Hydrogeology Division of the Geological Society of America

“Will China Run Out of Water?
Presented by Chunmiao Zheng
Department of Geological Sciences, University of Alabama

2 p.m. to 3 p.m., March 10, 2009
5436 Boelter Hall

Abstract

The American agricultural expert and environmentalist Lester Brown published a provocative book in 1995 called “Who Will Feed China: Wake-Up Call for a Small Planet.” Today, however, of a greater concern may be the question of whether the unprecedented economic growth in China over the past two decades can be sustained as the environmental pollution and water shortage continue to worsen. Some people have asked, “Will China run out of water?” This question is not merely academic: China has to nourish a fifth of the global population with about seven percent of the planet’s water resources. In fact, China’s State Council, or Cabinet, warned in a drought-fighting directive issued in December 2007 that even after taking into full account water-saving measures, China’s water use will reach or approach the total volume of exploitable water resources by 2030. Ample evidence suggests that China faces a daunting water resource crisis. The country has been battling water shortages in its northern and western provinces for more than a decade. But burgeoning economic growth and widespread environmental pollution have aggravated the water storage problem. Is China really running out of water? What does all this mean? What can be done? This presentation will take a close look at the current water situation in China and discuss the options available to deal with the worsening water shortage problem. The presentation draws on the presenter’s recent research work in the North China Plain and the Ordos Basin in western China.

Biographical Sketch

Chunmiao Zheng is professor of hydrogeology in the Department of Geological Sciences at the University of Alabama. The primary areas of his research are contaminant transport, groundwater management, and hydrologic modeling. Zheng is developer of the widely used MT3D/MT3DMS series of contaminant transport models, and co-author of the textbook Applied Contaminant Transport Modeling, Second Edition. He is currently a member of the National Academy of Sciences’ Committee on Hydrologic Science and president-elect of the International Commission on Groundwater of the IAHS.