Third World Centre for Water Management


State of China’s Water

Monsoon climate is the predominant feature of the climate in China, which, with its most part under the influence of southeast and southwest monsoon, has the characteristic of the humid and ample in rainfall around the southeast while dry and scarce in the northwest. It is also typical that prevailing wind directions shift abruptly from winter northerly to summer southerly and precipitation mostly in the warm half-year with high temperature appearing in the same period. The vast area of the East China and most areas of the South China are controlled by the eastern Asia monsoon. Generally, in summer these areas are affected by the oceanic air current, but in winter they are controlled by the continental air current. These results in dry winter and wet summer, however in these regions even in dry season there is also some precipitation. The southern part of Tibet and the most areas of Yunnan Province belong to the southwest monsoon climate zone in summer, and the rainy and dry seasons can be distinguished obviously.

China is a country having a great number of rivers, there are more than 50000 of them with catchment over 100 km2, and about 1500 of them each over 1000 km2. Owing to the influence of topography and climate, the distribution of rivers over the country is very uneven as the overwhelming majority of them occur in the eastern part where monsoon climate produces abundant rainfall, while the minority exist in the arid northwest interior, where, with vast drainless areas, precipitation is deficient due to continental climate. The majority of rivers are fed by rainfall, some are fed by snow melt in spring and rainfall in summer and autumn.

China is one of the countries with most amounts of mid- and low-latitudinal mountain glaciers in the world too. Modern glaciers occur extensively over the country’s northwestern and southwestern regions.

Dajun Shen and Ruiju Liang, 2003, “State of China’s Water”, Research Report, Third World Centre for Water Management, Mexico, pages 1-76.

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