World’s biggest water transit project – In 2014 China opened an $80 billion mega tunnel to transfer water from the country’s south to to the more arid and industrialized north through three canal systems.
The project has quenched the thirst of 100 million people, mitigating an alarming water crisis and reaping rich economic dividends in 18 of China’s industrial, agricultural-powerhouse cities and capital Beijing.
The South–North Water Transfer Project (南水北调工程, Nánshuǐ Běidiào Gōngchéng) is an infrastructure mega-project in China. It aims to channel 44.8 billion cubic meters of fresh water annually from the Yangtze River in southern China.
“There’s plenty of water in the south, not much water in the north. If at all possible; borrowing some water would be good.” Mao Zedong (1952)
In two years, the central line has ferried 8 billion cubic meters of water from southern China’s Yangtze River to Beijing, with a population of 21.5 million; Hebei, a mammoth water consumer as it produces China’s 1/5 raw steel and world’s 1/10; Henan, one of China’s top two grain producers since 2000, with a whopping 2016 output of 59 million tons; Tianjin, the only free-trade zone in northern China and a hi-tech manufacturing cluster.
Shandong, China’s 2nd largest wheat producer and 3rd most water-stressed province, with 1/6 the national average per capita quantity of water, has received 1.99 billion cubic meters of water from the east line, benefiting 40 million people.
Tough environmental measures ensure water quality, as all the diverted water safely qualifies as Grade III – the minimum standard for drinking water, also usable in aquatic breeding areas.
In Beijing, the hardness of water has dropped from 380 to 120 milligrams per liter since the imported water began to flow in, Beijing Waterworks Group determined.
The water transit has prevented the exploitation of over 800 million cubic meters of underground water in the already-depleted north; in addition, as surface water filters into the ground, underground water levels in over-exploited areas of Beijing, Henan and Shandong have increased.
With construction started in 2002 and estimated to require between 40 and 50 years to finish, the project is the world’s largest water-transfer project, unprecedented in the volume of water to be transferred, distance to be traveled and the population to be covered – 438 million residents scattered across 15 percent of China’s territory.