FUBAR II: China Must Import More Water Than The US Imports Oil

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by Simon Black of Sovereign Man blog,

In one of the most comprehensive studies ever conducted of China’s bubblicious property market, Professor Gan Li at Texas A&M University estimates that there are a whopping 49 million vacant homes in China right now.

As a percentage, this is twice the vacancy rate that the US housing market experienced at the peak of its recent bubble… suggesting that China has a rather painful housing collapse in store.

This should be a brutal blow to the economy given that housing comprised 15% of GDP last year. And the slowdown is already apparent.

In fact, China’s president Xi Jinping uncharacteristically announced a ‘new normal’ recently, declaring the heady days of 10% GDP growth to be over. His vision of China is moderate growth and less stimulus.

But I’ve identified a far greater problem for China… one that few people are talking about. And frankly I’m not sure they can fix it.

We discussed earlier that China does not have the capacity to feed itself. By the estimates of one state official, the country’s agricultural imports require more land to grow than the entire land mass of California.

The reasons are simple. For one, China doesn’t have enough fertile land in production to support its population’s growing food demand.

Theoretically this is fixable. With a bit of time, patience, and technology, barren soil can be rehabilitated In other words, China doesn’t have enough enough productive land capacity to support its population.

But the far greater issue is China’s massive freshwater deficiency.

Chief Economist Qian Keming of China’s Agriculture Ministry summed it up by telling the audience at the Third China International Agribusiness Forum:

“Fresh water resources are only 2100 cubic meters per capita, which is only 28% of the world’s average level.”




“The shortage of [water for agricultural irrigation] each year is about 30 billion cubic meters. China imported about 148.6 billion cubic meters of water in 2013, which was equivalent to 38% of China’s agricultural water.”

Here’s that number in perspective: China water imports of 148.6 billion cubic meters last year handily exceeded the 569 MILLION (0.569 billion) cubic meters of oil that the United States imported.

Water is THE critical resource in agriculture. Without it, you’re not producing. This makes China’s deficiency a long-term headwind to their food production dilemma.

It’s not something they can import their way out of either, because all of this comes at a time of flat (and even declining) yields, particularly from the world’s largest food exporter… which just happens to be the United States of America.

After decades of growth, grain yields in the US have topped out. Farmers have managed to extract all that the earth is capable of providing.

Many developing markets are no help either. Most people don’t realize that Africa, despite its legendary agricultural potential, is actually a net importer of food.

So between the supply constraints and the constantly growing demand, it’s clear where this trend is going.

The BEST possible scenario to unfold is rising food prices. The worst case could be shortages.

All of this is potentially destabilizing. History shows that while human beings will put up with a lot of sacrifices at the behest of their governments, starvation is not one of them.

This approaching ‘food crunch’ is the reason why agriculture is THE investment for the next decade and beyond.

But more importantly, it’s another gigantic nail in the coffin for the status quo. And there are plenty more.

Nearly every ‘developed’ western nation is bankrupt. Most major central banks are insolvent… and they’ve created bubbles everywhere. The century-old monetary experiment is starting to draw to a hasty, inevitable conclusion.

Meanwhile apathy is at high tide. You can see it in voting booths and streetside revolutions around the world– people are sick and tired of the status quo… of thieving politicians… of war… of getting spied on… of being told what they can/cannot put in their bodies.

They’re finally now starting to wake up and demand real changes– not just changing the players in charge, but changing the game itself.

Politicians will fight with every resource they have to maintain the status quo. But in conjunction with the fundamentals of food, the confluence of all these forces together is more than any system can possibly withstand.

It might not be today. It might not be this decade. But at some point in our future, there will be a complete reset in the way society organizes and governs itself.

Just make sure you’re wearing your seat belt.

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Slave's picture

Whiskey is for drinking and water is for fighting over.

jbvtme's picture

no brainer. hold the melamine and drink the milk

Almost Solvent's picture

Does the imported water come with bloated pig flavor, or do they have to add that in country?

Say What Again's picture

We have food.  We have Water.

We do NOT need any more of their plastic crap.  We do NOT need any more of their diseases.  We do NOT need any more of their pollution.

What am I missing here?

Anusocracy's picture

Just who are 'we'?

I prefer to make my own choices.

Say What Again's picture

OK.  go to the other team.  We don't need you.

max2205's picture

Drain tbe Lice paddy's! ...solved

SF beatnik's picture

Is there some way we can sell them some fucking water and get ourselves out of debt?

oddjob's picture

What am I missing here?

a good look at Lake Mead.

masterinchancery's picture

Bad soil is not fixable in less than centuries....same with groundwater.

_disengage_'s picture

Howard Finnel, P.A. Yeomans, Bill Mollison and a long list of others can show you that soil can be made VERY quickly.

Essentially you make compost from just about everything organic or allow the vegetation to die in place and plow it into the ground. You can take literally "dead" shales and turn the into black soil a foot deep in 3-4 years with Yeoman's Keylin Plan.

Here is Yeoman fixing soil in the 50s: http://vimeo.com/13323213

This is just one little aspect of what became permaculture.

jeff montanye's picture

and earthworms.  don't forget them.

_disengage_'s picture

Everyone has water. Look at how Australia uses rainwater to great success. Everyone has a cistern/filter.

For agriculture you use swales to capture the rain that falls on the land, not letting in flow off/erode. This water soaks into the land and is available long after the rain stops. It moves slowly underground and after a few years spring can pop out downhill.


Howard Finnell solved these problems in the 1930s dustbowl. P.A. Yeomans refined them into the Keyline System and invented a new plow. Holmgren and Mollison started putting the techniques together into Permaculture. Today people like Brad Landcaster in Arizona are literally regreening deserts.

It seems to need about 4" of rain per year to get a system growing again, the more the better. Once a desert is reforested it will retain moisture and therefore evaporate longer. This evaporation will become rainfall downwind. IE you can sort of "chain" islands of green that will make their own rain.

BlindMonkey's picture

If what you say is true, Brad Lancaster needs to keep a low profile.  The BLM will come armed to the teeth to rescue the endangered desert cheese snail and place all of his "green" land under their protection.

FearLess_FLY's picture

Here in Colorado USA, it is illegal to collect rainwater. The state government passed a law and declared that all rainwater belongs to the state.

WmMcK's picture

So I'm an outlaw -- call the HOA / police

max2205's picture

Don't feel bad, in MD they tax rain water...LOL!

DoChenRollingBearing's picture

Yet another reason we do not have to worry about China.  We do not have to worry about Russia either.  Nor Brazil nor India.

We can solve all BRIC issues with diplomacy or by staying out of their business.

chumbawamba's picture

What?  You crazy!  That doesn't kill enough people to keep the cosmic balance in order.


DoChenRollingBearing's picture

Wait!  Lemme check...  Yes, my tinfoil hat is still on.  Really tight too.

Anusocracy's picture

Technology, she is changing.

China leads the world in greenhouse use and the advent of LEDs tuned to the color, intensity and timing will bring about much improved efficiencies.

The Israelis developed a containerized computer-run cropping system that could produce 180,000 heads of lettuce from about 400 sq. ft. each year. It bathed the plants in light for up to 22 hours per day.

Food production is heading towards another revolution.

NidStyles's picture

Except it doesn't matter how many heads of lettuce you have, because lettuce has ZERO nutritional value worth mentioning. 

NuckingFuts's picture

Vegetable farming is my livelihood. I make a lot of money on lettuce and completely agree, it has NO nutritional value, can not be stored long term and would be the last thing I grew if my survival depended on it.

Anusocracy's picture

Mostly wrong. If you are talking about macronutrients that the lardasses don't need, you are correct. But for micronutrients, you are completely wrong. This is for THIRTEEN calories of lettuce:

Lettuce (butterhead)Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy 55 kJ (13 kcal)

Carbohydrates 2.23 g
Sugars 0.94
Dietary fibre 1.1 g

Fat 0.22 g

Protein 1.35 g

Vitamin A equiv.
lutein zeaxanthin (21%)
166 ?g
1987 ?g
1223 ?g
Thiamine (B1) (5%)
0.057 mg
Riboflavin (B2) (5%)
0.062 mg
Pantothenic acid (B5) (3%)
0.15 mg
Vitamin B6 (6%)
0.082 mg
Folate (B9) (18%)
73 ?g
Vitamin C (4%)
3.7 mg
Vitamin E (1%)
0.18 mg
Vitamin K (97%)
102.3 ?g

Trace metals
Calcium (4%)
35 mg
Iron (10%)
1.24 mg
Magnesium (4%)
13 mg
Manganese (9%)
0.179 mg
Phosphorus (5%)
33 mg
Potassium (5%)
238 mg
Sodium (0%)
5 mg
Zinc (2%)
0.2 mg

Other constituents
Water 95.63 g


potato's picture

vertical agriculture is the future. Lettuce is just used as a comparison, since you can sell it for about $1 a head. This yields an estimate of the profitability per unit area.

Anusocracy's picture

Yes, and grocery chains could incorporate these into their central warehouses - pest free and E. coli free.

teslaberry's picture

if you think you can grow any significant amount of the worlds food wtih LED's youre insane. 


Anusocracy's picture


LEDs outperform incandescent lights, hands down. But they should also give farmers unprecedented control over plant growth, development and nutritional content in future, say researchers.

It won’t come as a surprise to discover that consumers all over the developed world are increasingly demanding seasonal vegetables all year round, even when the local climate simply doesn’t allow that kind of growth. Particularly sought-after are tomatoes, cucumbers, and leaf vegetables. Which is why greenhouse farming has become a major factor in the food supply of the developed world.

Consequently, the number of commercial greenhouses and the area they occupy is rocketing. In the Netherlands, for example, greenhouses occupy around 0.25 percent of the land area of the entire country. And the Netherlands isn’t even the largest producer of greenhouse vegetables in Europe. That position is held by Spain. And the largest producer of greenhouse vegetables in the world is now China.

ajax's picture



Tomatoes from Holland are the worst, THE WORST.

BlindMonkey's picture

There those damn jews go again.  Trying to revolutionize technology for the benefit of themselves and helping the world as a byproduct.  Greedy bastards.

mumcard's picture

It's because they live in a fucking desert.  They're not doing it to help humans.

Da Yooper's picture

Whiskey is for drinking and water is for fighting over.

A good single mault scotch whiskey for sure


Water ?


Never touch the stuff


after all fish pee in it

Citxmech's picture

Have you tried rainwater in addition to your grain alcohol?


doctor10's picture

Soooo is he trying to say Goldman Sachs is about to tranch and securitize the Columbia River?

alien-IQ's picture

"Water is not a human right"
Nestle CEO

Cathartes Aura's picture
Great Lakes Water To Be Sold To China As Half The U.S. Faces Extreme Water Crisis

So why are we allowing foreign corporations such as Nestle to make millions upon millions of dollars pumping water out of the Great Lakes and selling it overseas?


". . .it's a small world after all. . ."       


let's all sing!



Miffed Microbiologist's picture

That and the depletion of the Ogallala Aquifer which is not being recharged adequately to be sustainable. I think the USA should look to itself before castigating others.


Cathartes Aura's picture

the You-Ass-eh? corporate-entity is in the business of profiteering, and has much advertising of Brand-Amrka invested in maintaining its reality.

absolutely agree re: Ogallala Aquifer.

In the Texas Panhandle, oilman T. Boone Pickens, who several years ago bought up significant underground water resources, found that his property straddled several different groundwater districts, with varying DFCs, that lay in the fast-depleting Ogallala Aquifer. Pickens sued the state, arguing it should have put an end to what he says are conflicting rules that could devalue his water.


then there's always that ole Chinatown tale of California's Water Wars. . . 

leaving Owens Lake/Valley with a persistant, dry cough.

for the pervasive, unusually fine-grained, alkaline dust that infiltrates the smallest cracks and contaminates residences. The lake bed is probably the largest single source of PM10 dust (aerosol particles smaller than 10 microns in aerodynamic diameter) in the United States; by one estimate, 900,000-8,000,000 metric tons per year (Gill and Gillette, 1991).

FeralSerf's picture

Canada wastes huge amounts of water into James Bay.

Abbie Normal's picture

At least the water from James Bay produces hydropower, and it eventually flows into the Hudson Bay and on to the Arctic Ocean.

Contrast that with the water used to extract the Athabasca tar sands, it goes into the earth and disappears forever.  They had to divert an entire river to feed that project and those living along what used to be downstream, now have water trucked in to them by the oil companies.

Similar "water for oil" trading going on with shale oil extraction.  So what do we trade for water when it runs low?

Kirk2NCC1701's picture

@ alien-IQ: "Water is not a human right" -Nestle CEO

Funny you'd quote that (given your handle), since it sounds like a quote from the Alien Lizard People.  Wait, aren't there some who believe many of our leaders are Human-Lizard hybrids? 

All kidding aside, we seem to be getting really good at turning the place into a desert planet:  wipe out the rain forests, temperate forests and wetlands, pollute the rivers, eliminate arable topsoil with agrobiz practices...  And Simon's talking about China, as though they're the big culprit?  Has he gone back to the DOD/CIA reservation?

BlindMonkey's picture

Stupid is a commodity in high supply globally.  The DoD/CIA hasn't cornered the market.

SWCroaker's picture

Is the problem too little water, or too many people?   Maybe too little water is the cure/stop_mechanism for too many people?

Seer's picture

Eventually, given our quest for perpeptual growth, we hit the wall on all key resources.  It's why I call BS on his (Simon's) statement:

"Theoretically this is fixable. With a bit of time, patience, and technology, barren soil can be rehabilitated"

With no limits on growth then it's NOT "fixable."  And, really, enough of the "techonology will save us" BS (Simon)!

NotApplicable's picture

Without central banking (money=debt), growth would naturally be limited by reality. Instead, growth is allowed to consume the future by pulling forward demand.

So, given this, once we've consumed all that the future has to offer, technology could save us, if only we hadn't consumed it all.

They're not eating the seed corn these days so much as they're pissing in it.