China’s Water-Energy-Food Choke Points

Via the Wilson Center’s New Security Beat, a detailed look at the water / energy / food nexus in China:

Water for Energy

Last month, the China Environment Forum released a new Global Choke Point report,China’s Water-Energy-Food Roadmap. To date, we believe this is the most comprehensive report on China’s interlinked natural resource insecurities – dwindling water resources in the face of growing energy use and increasing food demand.

In addition to providing policy recommendations, we created a series of infographics to help our readers visualize the interactions between water, energy, and food. “These interactions are complex and often off the radar for people,” said China Environment Forum Director Jennifer Turner. “Infographics are an impactful way to show how they relate to each other.”

Water scarcity and pollution is already a major component of China’s environmental crisis and it will only worsen as the energy sector, including renewable energy, expands.  As illustrated in Figure 1, the production and use of coal accounts for up to 20 percent of China’s national water withdrawals. At the same time, the development of hydropower in southwest China affects river ecosystems and often is correlated with the development of highly polluting industries. Similarly, while the booming clean energy industry may alleviate air pollution, some renewable energy sources, for example concentrated solar power, demand a significant amount of water placing more pressure on the country’s hydro resources.

Energy for Water


To bridge the widening gap between scarce water supply and growing demand, Chinese policymakers are pursuing alternative solutions such as wastewater treatment, desalination, and the great South-North Water Transfer Project. These, however, have huge costs in terms of energy consumption. The challenge then was to design an infographic showing how energy has become both a financial and operational burden for “making” freshwater.

Energy and Water for Food

Energy and Water for Food

The food production cycle, from farming and processing to packaging, storage, and distribution, has a large water and energy footprint as well. In China, the rising domestic demand for food and inefficient use of resources is increasing the amount of water and energy used to irrigate farmland, produce meat, and power modern kitchens.

These infographics were created to provide an engaging and interactive reading experience for a wide range of audiences – from policymakers and NGO practitioners to corporate executives and students – to encourage deeper discussion on China and the rest of the world’s water-energy-food choke points.

How do you think we did?

This entry was posted on Friday, May 8th, 2015 at 6:15 am and is filed under Uncategorized.  You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.  You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site. 

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About This Blog And Its Author
As the scarcity of water and energy continues to grow, the linkage between these two critical resources will become more defined and even more acute in the months ahead.  This blog is committed to analyzing and referencing articles, reports, and interviews that can help unlock the nascent, complex and expanding linkages between water and energy -- The Watergy Nexus -- and will endeavor to provide a central clearinghouse for insightful articles and comments for all to consider.

Educated at Yale University (Bachelor of Arts - History) and Harvard (Master in Public Policy - International Development), Monty Simus has held a lifelong interest in environmental and conservation issues, primarily as they relate to freshwater scarcity, renewable energy, and national park policy.  Working from a water-scarce base in Las Vegas with his wife and son, he is the founder of Water Politics, an organization dedicated to the identification and analysis of geopolitical water issues arising from the world’s growing and vast water deficits, and is also a co-founder of SmartMarkets, an eco-preneurial venture that applies web 2.0 technology and online social networking innovations to motivate energy & water conservation.  He previously worked for an independent power producer in Central Asia; co-authored an article appearing in the Summer 2010 issue of the Tulane Environmental Law Journal, titled: “The Water Ethic: The Inexorable Birth Of A Certain Alienable Right”; and authored an article appearing in the inaugural issue of Johns Hopkins University's Global Water Magazine in July 2010 titled: “H2Own: The Water Ethic and an Equitable Market for the Exchange of Individual Water Efficiency Credits.”