China’s hydroelectric network dries up alongside Yangtze River

The world’s third-largest river is suffering an historic drought, plunging many areas of China into a power crisis and revealing structures lost for centuries beneath the waterline.

The Yangtze River is drying up as China continues to grapple with extreme drought conditions caused by a lack of rain and 70-day heatwave. Crop failures have already been reported, and many parts of the country that rely on the flow of water for hydroelectric power are now facing shortages and blackouts. 

dried soil

The world’s third largest river has had 45% less rainfall compared with last July, leading to the lowest levels since 1961. In total, 66 rivers across 34 counties in Chongqing are reporting historically scarce water, while Sichuan, where more than 80% of power is hydroelectric, is now cutting or limiting electricity to factories to prioritise power for residents.

China’s largest freshwater lake, Poyang, is now a quarter of its normal size for the time of year. The overall situation has led to the country’s first drought alert in nine years. Meanwhile, Monday 22nd August saw the 11th red alert for heat in a row. As a result of this, a number of Buddhist statues, in addition to other structures long-since submerged beneath waterlines, have been exposed. 

High temperatures are known to increase evaporative demand from the sky, just one aspect of a complex relationship between heat waves and drought. Manufacturing is already being impacted, which could lead to a significant hit for the global supply chain. Sichuan alone is home to major suppliers for companies like Toyota, Tesla, Intel, Apple and Volkswagen, in addition to pesticide and solar panel firms. All have been asked to continue rationing electricity use until at least Thursday 25th August. Shanghai, China’s biggest city, which is located in the province, has also been forced to reduce power demands. 

Image credit: Brad Helmink



Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Help us break the news – share your information, opinion or analysis
Back to top