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Water Conservation Projects in agriculture in China

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Introduction

Water Conservation Projects in China Introduction Increasing water usage demands in China, as a result of a growing industry and a growing population, particularly urban populations, together with severe droughts and reduced snow melt has been placing strains on groundwater and surface water resources (European Science Parliament, 2010). Water in China is scarce, and unevenly distributed, so there is regional management to allocate water where needed. Any aims to cut water use will affect such allocations and in some areas farmers buy water in times of need - which is pricey and can have peak demand issues. High amounts of runoff from irrigation have associated problems such as salinisation due to mobilising soil bound salt and contamination of resources from chemical runoff due to the high amount of chemical fertilisers used. Recent news has suggested that already 21% of fresh water in China is unsuitable for use in agriculture due to pollution (Guardian Sustainable Business, 2010). In 2004 agriculture in China used a massive 3585.7 million m3 of water (China Statistic Census, 2006) - that's 65% of all water used and approximately 90% of this agricultural use is used for irrigation. Water shortages and predicted crises have prompted the Water Resources Ministry to promote the conservation of water, affecting agriculture by way of plans for increased irrigation efficiency and increased recycling of wastewater in agriculture, and reducing water consumption in industry, which would allow for more availability in agriculture (The Ministry of Water Resources, 2010). Rice in China is the main staple food of a population of over 1.3billion (World Bank, 2010). Depending on soil, rice variety and climate conditions it is estimated that one kilo of rice uses between 1500 and 5000 litres of water (ACIAR, 2010), as rice is grown with a continuous flooding technique. 96% of the rice produced annually comes from irrigated systems (ACIAR, 2010), so with water availability declining and demand for food increasing, efforts need to be made to increase the efficiency of water use in rice-based agriculture. ...read more.

Middle

All of the methods above signify water conservation techniques, so this would represent a saving for farmers and improve the situation for the people of the community and also they do not signify any loss to crop yield which is very important. However some of the techniques outlined above may involve investment in new irrigation systems which may be costly and unavailable to some farmers without investment by outside corporations or institutions. The benefit to the environment is water conservation, reduced runoff and soil preservation as a result. ACIAR The Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) is an Australian Governmental Office that funds research projects for Australian scientists to use their skills for the benefit of developing countries (ACIAR, 2010). ACIAR has worked in China on projects focusing on increasing farmers' incomes and the better management of land and water resources. Many of ACIAR projects have been covered under WSI and relate to rice, but two more important projects are outlined below. FILTER Technology An estimated 4 million hectares of agricultural land in China is irrigated with wastewater which untreated can pose serious health risks (ACIAR, 2010). The Australian Filtration and Irrigated cropping for Land Treatment and Effluent Reuse (FILTER) is a system which controls the flow of wastewater for irrigation by regulated pumping and filtration through the soil to a drainage system underneath. In times of low cropping or high rainfall this works to reduce untreated waste to drainage treated for EPA standard re-use or discharge. This eliminates the need for wastewater storage by providing treatment through the year. The FILTER system has been shown to discharge drainage water with a reduction in pollutants to a reasonable level aiding better standards of environmental health and less polluted waterways. Farmers benefit by increased yields, which offset its construction and reduced health risks (ACIAR, 2010). This is a bonus in terms of long term investment by farmers and for the environment means appropriate treatment of wastewater preventing contamination from entering the water system and water conservation. ...read more.

Conclusion

Savings in water use has benefits to the environment if it means there is more availability for all other life and the quality of water eco-systems improve. In China the reduction in water use is driven by higher demand versus less availability, so concern is mostly due to economic factors. China is a developing country so any saving in water use in agriculture will be used up in another industry and in fact it is reductions in water allocations that are prompting farmers to explore alternative methods. However agriculture in China has a high use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides so a reduction in water use may aid a reduction in chemical runoff into the water system. Any water not used is water that does not need to be treated so energy savings can be made in water treatment. Although to improve this situation a review of chemical use in agriculture would be required. The water saving techniques need also to be balanced with other environmental concerns for there to be any benefit, such as soil quality and fuel use. However changes in farming practices such as ways which reduce water flow and channel usage may have an unknown affect on the groundwater table and to river flow. So to understand the real benefits or threats to water systems modelling and mapping needs to be used and has been used in some areas. This can help determine the levels of ground and surface water availability and recharge, but only using huge amounts of data gathered by ongoing monitoring, studying and research. So it is essential for this side of water conservation to be taken into account. Another possible impact is to the environment concerning pesticide use. This could be due to an increase in farming or land given over to farming due to increased water availability, which may in turn mean more farmers using pesticides which have a negative impact on the environment. ...read more.

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