China’s Water Woes… part 2: New Algae on the Yangtze, Lakes Losing Water, and Qingdao’s Olympic Mess

Saturday, June 28, 2008 20:09
Posted in category Uncategorized

Earlier this year, I was really hammering away the point that China has a water problem. Given the north is a desert, and the south experiences yearly flooding, what I had to say was not necessarily new, but what I had to say then was that essentially China had developed to the point where the water problems in China were really beginning to impact the economy.

The Taihu lake algae outbreak shut off water to a few million people last summer, a yearlong drought was stranding boats in Yangtze sand bars, and hydropower was way off in the south.. each of these were having a very overt impact on the economy, and my concern earlier this year was that it would only get worse.

and I recently found the article Central China harnesses algae in Yangtze tributaries, that has confirmed that while my worst fear has not come true (the Yangtze completely caking over in algae), it is not completely unfounded or out of the realm of possibilities.

Another article also raised the hair off my neck – North China’s largest freshwater lake shrinking – where we are finding that due to over exploitation and a lack of rain, some of China’s largest bodies of water are simply drying up

and the last is from AP, who is reporting China removes algae from Olympic sailing venue…. the venue being the Qingdao Bay.  Picture below pretty much says it all.

Where my concerns should become yours, is that simply China cannot sustain itself in the current form for much longer. There are going to be real obstacles as water levels drop , chemical concentration levels rise, and bodies of water become not just too polluted to drink… but too polluted to use for industrial purposes.

China’s water problem will be everyone’s, but fortunately, it will also be an opportunity as firms like Veolia and NGOs like the World Bank are being brought in to tackle some of the core issues surrounding water pollution and being brought in to clean up the problems.

For investors in China, this is also an opportunity as we begin seeing innovations like tank to tap bring developed and coming to market in China.

The motivations being what they are, accessing clean water, you can be sure that not only is the Chinese government going to promote R&D and investment, individual citizens will also look to develop solutions locally.

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3 Responses to “China’s Water Woes… part 2: New Algae on the Yangtze, Lakes Losing Water, and Qingdao’s Olympic Mess”

  1. JD says:

    June 28th, 2008 at 9:03 pm

    I wonder if it is the air or the water which is a bigger problem. China has become an environmental catastrophe of global magnitude.

  2. Peter Maier says:

    June 29th, 2008 at 8:44 am

    Excess algae resulting in red tides and dead zones around the whole world should not come to any surprise. The reason is simple but also rather embarrassing; the incorrect use of an essential water pollution test that caused all the industrialized countries to ignore the pollution caused by nitrogenous (urine and protein) waste. This waste, like fecal waste, exerts and oxygen demand, but in addition is, in all its forms, a fertilizer for algae and aquatic plants.
    Since many countries have and will blindly follow the lead of industrial countries, one will see the same as what is happening in the Western world.
    The reason this essential test can not be corrected is that those responsible also would have to admit that because of this test, it is impossible to evaluate the real performances of sewage treatment plants and what their effluent waste loadings are on receiving water bodies. Also the fact that much better sewage treatment (actually only odor control facilities) is available at much lower cost is another reason nobody wants this dog to wake up. What to learn more? Visit

  3. juergen says:

    June 29th, 2008 at 1:52 pm

    Yes – and there is no WIND in Qingdao ……happy sailing !