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China's Looming Water Crisis

Brian Dumaine reads the latest global trends report from the National Intelligence Council and concludes that China could hit a rough patch:

One theme in particular that stands out this year is the coming food and water crisis in China. According to the report, climate change coupled with China's move toward urbanization and middle class lifestyles will create huge water demand and therefore crop shortages by 2030. As the report states: "Water may become a more significant source of contention than energy or minerals out to 2030."

Globally, demand for food is estimated to increase by more than 35% by 2030 and that means the world will need more water. After all, agriculture and livestock account for 70% of our water use. According to a major international study, global water requirements—mostly to sustain agriculture and livestock—will rise to 40% above our current sustainable water supplies.

China is particularly vulnerable to this trend. The report points out, for example, that cereal production in China faces significant challenges from environmental stresses relating to water scarcity—the melting Himalayan glaciers aren't helping—soil depletion, and pressures on land availability from urbanization. China is a major wheat producer and the second-largest producer and consumer of corn after the US.