While much attention is being paid to the negative consequences of environmental pollution in China, another crisis is brewing with equally dangerous consequences for people's health and for the country's development: water scarcity.

The National Intelligence Council (NIC) report "Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds" states that, with regard to China, "climate change, urbanization trends and middle-class lifestyles will create huge water demand and crop shortages by 2030." Aside from its economic and public health costs, water scarcity also endangers economic growth and social stability.

Lack of water in China is compounded by high levels of water pollution. Hu Siyi, vice minister at the Ministry of Water Resources, said in 2012 that up to 40 percent of China's rivers were seriously polluted from 75 billion tons of sewage and waste water discharged into them. He also said about two-thirds of Chinese cities are "water needy" and nearly 300 million rural residents lack access to safe drinking water.