Beijing, 22 March, 2016 – 45% of coal-fired power plants in China are located in areas of ‘water over-withdrawal’, a ground-breaking Greenpeace study of the coal industry’s impact on the global water crisis shows. Every year these power plants consume quantities of water equivalent to the basic requirements of 186 million people. Moreover, 48% of proposed coal-fired power plants in China are located in the same ‘water over-withdrawal’ areas. Greenpeace urges the Chinese government to act immediately to secure China’s water resources and prevent further ecosystem damage.

“Not only does coal pollute our skies and fuel climate change, it also deprives us of life’s most basic need, water,” said Harri Lammi, a Greenpeace senior global campaigner on coal.

“In China an overlapping of rich coal reserves, water scarcity and fragile ecosystems makes the problem especially pronounced. Yet China continues to expand coal power plants in these regions. This must be halted.”

The report, The Great Water Grab, is the result of collaboration between Greenpeace and Dutch engineering consultancy Witteveen+Bos. It utilises data from Platts World Electric Power Plant Database and the World Resources Institute’s Aqueduct water risk analysis model. The study maps areas of water stress and current and proposed power plants and coal mines and is the first global plant-by-plant study of the coal industry’s current and future water demand.

Greenpeace East Asia selected the Kuye River basin, located in China’s ‘energy golden triangle’ and an important tributary of the Yellow River, as a case study for China’s water-coal conflict. Fieldwork shows that the Kuye River’s water flow has already dropped and now runs only intermittently. It is also estimated that by 2020 the river basin’s coal industry alone will consume 105% of the whole basin’s projected total water supply [1]. Furthermore, in non-flood season water quality in the basin has been graded as ‘Inferior V’, below the quality considered suitable for agricultural use.

Greenpeace East Asia urges the Chinese government to call an immediate moratorium on coal industry projects in areas of water over-withdrawal and transition towards renewable energy sources, which consume little to no water. Moreover, China’s reduction of over-capacity in the coal industry should prioritise those power plants located in water over-withdrawal areas.

[1] Projected total annual water volume as according to the EIA report of the Integrated Plan of the Kuye River Basin,

Notes to editor:

1)    ‘The Great Water Grab: How the coal industry is deepening the global water crisis’ can be downloaded here:

2)    A media briefing on Greenpeace East Asia’s Kuye River case study can be downloaded here:

3)    Images of the Kuye River case study can be downloaded here:

Media contact:

Tom Baxter,
International Communications Officer, Greenpeace East Asia,
email: [email protected]
phone: +86 188 1134 4861

Greenpeace International Press Desk
email: [email protected],
phone: +31 (0) 20 718 2470 (available 24 hours)

Greenpeace stands for positive change through action to defend the natural world and promote peace. We are a non-profit organisation with a presence in 40 countries. To maintain its independence, Greenpeace does not accept donations from governments or corporations but relies on contributions from individual supporters and foundation