The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

California and China’s water severely polluted, now scarce

Guilford students use water on a daily basis: to drink, take showers, wash vegetables. But how often do you worry about the quality of the water you use?

The Seville community in California has always faced the problem of contaminated drinking water.

According to The New York Times, California’s water contamination is a consequence of more than a half century of environmental neglect in which chemical fertilizers, animal wastes and pesticides have permeated water resources.

In farm communities such as Seville, where the annual income is $14,000, residents such as Rebecca Quintana pay double the price for water because they have to purchase bottled water in addition to paying for regular tap water. Residents use their tap water to shower and wash clothes, but buy five-gallon bottles to drink, cook and brush their teeth.

“You can’t smell it,” said Quintana to The New York Times. “You can’t see it. It looks like plain beautiful water.”

To many residents, high costs are not the only issue at hand. According to a study by the University of California, about 254,000 people in the Tulare Basin and Salinas Valley risk consumption of nitrate contaminated drinking water.

Exposure to high levels of nitrate can be extremely dangerous.

Nitrate is known to cause methemoglobinemia, or “blue baby syndrome,” a condition in infants causing them to suffer from a lack of oxygen. Young animals are also affected by nitrates in the same way human babies are, reports Colorado State University.

Eunice Martinez and her 72 year-old mother told The New York Times that they stopped drinking the water before they knew that there was a health problem.

“Honestly, it was the taste,” said Martinez. “It just wasn’t right.”

Unfortunately, California isn’t the only region facing this problem.

China, one of 13 countries facing extreme water shortages, is also combating contaminated water. The Yangtze River, the third longest river in the world, has recently turned to a blood red color. New University newspaper of the University of California notes that the river was first discolored in December 2011 when an illegal factory dumped red dye into the city’s pipeline, a line which was connected to the river.

The dye was used to color firework tubes, and has turned the Yangtze River several different colors including green, according to CNN.

“When I left my home in late 1970s, the water was clean and very natural,” said George Guo, professor of political science and former resident of southwestern Sichuan province.

“But when I came back in 1990, the countryside that was beautiful in the past had many huge factories. … This was when China exported and took 90 percent of the world’s products, and there was huge pollution.”

Guo further notes that local businesses and governments may be a source of this problem.

“In order for local businesses to stay in power, they have to show their central government that they are continuing economic growth and contributing to high GDP,” said Guo. “The Chinese government needs to consider whether their GDP or the quality of the production is important. They need to consider the environment and not just push for a high number.”

While China suffers from water pollution, it also faces a high water demand.

China’s annual water demand is predicted to require 818 billion cubic meters when there are only 616 billion cubic meters available.

Debra Tan, a specialist at China Water Risk, told CNN that China has 25 bathtubs of water per person while the U.S. has 125.

Last year, the Chinese government took notice of the problem, announcing they would invest four trillion renminbi ­ ­— 600 billion USD — over 10 years to protect its water resources, notes Nature, international weekly journal of science.

Similarly, the Water Stewardship Project and Ecological Farming Association are helping farmers across California practice water conservation practices.

Although solutions have been presented in both regions, implementing policies into practice and seeing actual progress remains challenges for both California and China.

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