The Wilson Center’s Jennifer Turner turned heads at the annual National Coffee Association Summit with the revelation that 35% of China’s water is unsafe according to the Chinese government, which estimates 300 million residents do not have ready access to potable water.
“Rivers run red, green, and denim blue,” explained Turner whose talk focused on the risks to China’s coffee growers. Coffee is grown in the water-rich south but demand there for energy, much of it from hydroelectric projects, is “far outpacing fresh water supply,” she said. “Farmers lose access to water because hydroelectic takes priority,” she said.
The country has already completed 87,000 dams and water diversions with a massive south-to-north water transfer project slated for completion by 2050.
Growers in Yunnan Province are very excited about coffee which generates three times greater prices than tea but to fully realize its potential “China must become the most water efficient country in the world,” she said.