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China's water-saving drive makes its way to nation's farms (3)
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13:24, December 03, 2008

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Chinese farmers only receive 46 percent of the water re-directed from rivers and lakes to their fields. The rest leaks or evaporates in transit, while developed countries manage to use 80 percent of such water.

Grain production is a special priority in terms of agricultural water conservation. Agricultural irrigation accounts for 65 percent of China's annual water use, which totals 560 billion cubic meters, and grain production consumes the bulk of the water used in agricultural irrigation, agricultural officials said.

"Without water, farmers can hardly farm," said Water Resources Minister Chen Lei. "But if we do not promote agricultural water conservation, we will gradually fail to meet the target of producing more than 500 billion kilograms of grain each year."

China sorely needs to save water, which is in ever-greater demand for industrial, residential and environmental protection purposes. These uses are squeezing the amount of water available for farm irrigation.

Even more problematic, traditional but wasteful irrigation methods are still used in most areas of China. For instance, on the Chengdu Plain in the southwestern Sichuan Province, farmers still flood their land with the water from the Dujiangyan Irrigation Works built more than 2,250 years ago.
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