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Saving water and improving agricultural water management is the only solution to China's water shortages, says Li Taige.

Parts of China are suffering their worst drought in 50 years. Agriculture consumes two-thirds of China's water and is very inefficient — just 46 per cent of irrigation water reaches crops, compared to 70–80 per cent in developed countries.

Some experts are calling for increased investment in anti-drought technology. But there is more to water conservation in agriculture than simply improving irrigation, says former minister of water resources Qian Zhengying. Crops, forests and livestock must be balanced across arid and semi-arid regions to ensure that local industry suits the natural environment.

Migrant workers returning to the countryside should be trained to save water in agriculture and water pollution must be controlled, adds Li.

A World Bank report suggests creating a new national water resources committee to lead and coordinate water affairs, and recommends using market measures such as water rights, pricing and environmental compensation. It also calls for more robust public participation in water affairs.

Link to full article in China Dialogue