After a season of record-breaking drought across China, groundwater levels have hit historic lows this year in northeast and central parts of China where hundreds of millions of people live. Reservoirs grew so dry in agricultural Henan province that the city of Pingdingshan closed car washes and extracted water from puddles. But this is no one-time emergency. Farmers and water-hungry industries have been wrestling with a long-term water crisis that has dried up more than half the country's 50,000 significant rivers and left hundreds of cities facing what the government classifies as a "serious scarcity" of water. Half a billion Chinese live in a handful of provinces, largely in the northeast, where coal-fired power plants and other water-gulping industries already burden reservoirs and aquifers. Chinese farmers have lost an estimated $1.2 billion this year due to drought, while China has slowed plans to tap its deposits of shale gas, which sit in areas with the greatest scarcity. The water crisis is also hitting China's main energy source, coal, which requires large amounts of water to extract and convert into power.
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--- The Associated Press