Water shortage puts Leizhou farms at risk

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 14 February, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 14 February, 2006, 12:00am

A lack of rainfall and the excessive extraction of groundwater have led to a severe drought in western Guangdong's Leizhou Peninsula, threatening supplies of water for drinking and agricultural irrigation.

And the provincial Department of Water Resources is expecting the drought to worsen over the next few months.

The department's data shows that several main cities on the peninsula - Lianjiang , Wuchuan and Xuwen - have not received any rain for 135 days, while Leizhou and Zhanjiang have registered 85 days without rain. The level of Hedi Reservoir, the third biggest in the province, has fallen below the 'dead-water' line, which means no water can flow out.

Zhanjiang's water authority said the region's reserves were only enough to maintain supplies for households and factories in several big cities, while agricultural irrigation was under threat. It said about 512,000 people were facing difficulties obtaining sufficient amounts of drinking water, and 140,000 hectares of crops were suffering from the effects of the drought.

The provincial department said many in the region could not find fresh water, despite digging wells as deep as 1.5km.

Chen Junhong , of the Guangzhou Institute of Geography, said typhoons were the main provider of water for the region, but there had been fewer than usual.

But Chen Junhe , a water resource specialist from Guangzhou's Sun Yat-sen University, said excessive extraction and wasting of groundwater was the main reason for the district's drought.

Soil salinisation was serious in some districts, he added.

The provincial department accused local residents of digging many wells without permission and pumping large amounts of water, warning the area was now also at risk of subsidence.

'This is the last chance [for the region] to wake up and avoid the danger,' the department said.

Professor Chen Junhe said governments in the region were not fully aware of the shortage of fresh water on the peninsula.

'[Local governments] should lead the way to develop less water-intensive industries and cut down on the planting of water-consuming crops in the region,' he said.