China is set to introduce a 100% supply of water to rural areas by 2020, the government said on Tuesday, in an attempt to improve its water quality.
The announcement comes amid growing concerns about the country’s water supply and the threat of drought as a result of climate change.
China’s water use has increased to about 40 billion cubic metres (bcm), the second-highest in the world after the United States, the ministry said in a statement.
It said the government had set a target to produce 100 billion cubic meters of water by 2020.
The new plan is the first time the country has set a total water supply target, although the ministry did not say how it would be achieved.
The government’s aim to make rural areas more efficient and to curb water wastage has been supported by a report from the US-based think tank Environment America, which said that as much as 90% of China’s rural water use could be avoided.
It estimated that as many as 25 million people are using water resources that are not being used for agriculture.
The US-China Water Initiative estimated in January that China consumed about a quarter of the world’s fresh water, with almost three-quarters of it being used by agriculture.
China aims to use a third of its fresh water by 2050, the US National Academies of Sciences and Engineering said in its 2017 report.
The government has also launched an ambitious plan to increase water conservation, which aims to conserve at least 50% of the land area in the country by 2030.
The plan, which was announced on Monday, is expected to involve the use of more trees and wetlands, to protect water supplies and rivers and to reduce the water footprint of the country.
The country has also committed to a 100-million-tonne carbon capture and storage project.