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Home ยป China’s largest lake loses 70% of its surface due to drought

China’s largest lake loses 70% of its surface due to drought

China's largest lake loses 70% of its surface due to drought

Poyang Lake, the largest body of fresh water in China, located in the center of the country along the Yangtze River, has only 28% of its usual surface for this time of year due to the worst drought since 1951.

The lagoon in Jiangxi province measured just 638 square kilometres at the end of September compared to the historical average of 2,252 square kilometres for the same period in other years, state television CCTV reported.

Levels in the large body of water reached a minimum depth of 7.1 meters on September 23, down from 19.49 meters after three months of the earliest dry season on record.

“The lake entered the dry season 100 days earlier than expected,” Li Yankuo, a professor at Jiangxi University, told the South China Morning Post.

State of Poyang Lake in China at the end of August 2022, severely affected by drought.
State of Poyang Lake in China at the end of August 2022, severely affected by drought. Source: unsplash

Jiangxi authorities issued a red alert on dwindling water supplies last week and launched countermeasures, including releasing water from reservoirs to help the 4.8 million drought-affected people in the province to maintain agricultural production.

A lake linked to flooding of the Yangtze

Poyang Lake is 170 kilometres long and has an average width of about 17 kilometres. Its average depth is eight meters, and the maximum is 25 meters. It is situated on the southern bank of the middle reaches of the Yangtze River and serves as a drainage outlet for floods from the Yangtze River by absorbing some of the water during the rainy season and allowing it to drain back into the Yangtze River during the dry period. Two other rivers, the Gan and the Xiu, supply the lake with water.

File image of a bridge over Lake Poyang, in a time of abundant water.  PHOTO Chuyuss
File image of a bridge over Lake Poyang, in a time of abundant water. PHOTO Chuyuss

The Jiangxi government says climate change is altering the lake’s regime, causing dry seasons to start earlier and last longer. The drying up of the lake is also affecting the hundreds of thousands of migratory birds that spend the winter in Poyang Lake, a nature sanctuary that enjoys various legal protections.

The Poyang and surrounding wetlands are very important winter habitats for birds. Wetlands are formed by the expansion of the lake caused by seasonal variations in water level.

Poyang Lake, Source: commons.wikimedia

During the summer, drought left scars like people in Chongqing riding motorcycles across the usually fast-flowing Jialing River, whose bed was exposed as the water level dropped, or the discovery of 600-year-old Buddhist sculptures antiquity hitherto covered by water.

The lack of water affected hydroelectric production and also caused the paralysis of some factories due to a lack of energy. Local meteorologist Chen Lijuan recently explained that periods of intense heat, which start “earlier and end later,” could become the “new normal” in the Asian country under “the effect of climate change.”

50% less rain

The weather situation in China in recent months has been one of extreme heat, the hottest summer on record, and a lack of rain. A tonic that is repeated in recent times.

China’s Central Meteorological Observatory has issued a drought warning in recent days after rainfall in the Yangtze River basin fell nearly 50 per cent year on year since July.

In some areas of the central provinces of Hunan, Hubei, Jiangxi and Anhui, rainfall in recent dates has been reduced by up to 80% compared to the same days in 2021, according to the meteorological agency.

In recent days, the central government sent an inspection team from the National Command Center for the Prevention of Droughts and Floods to the areas most affected by the drought, where they recommended that the priority should be “long-term drought prevention” and to guarantee “the supply of drinking water” and “the stability of the autumn harvest”.


Temperatures of up to 45 degrees Celsius have prompted several Chinese provinces to impose power cuts. As cities struggle to cope with a surge in electricity demand that is due in part to people turning on air conditioners.

The megacities of Shanghai and Chongqing have cut outdoor decorative lighting, while authorities in Sichuan province have imposed industrial power cuts after water levels dropped at key hydropower plants.

In the southwestern megacity of Chongqing, home to 31 million people, authorities declared Monday that all shopping malls must only operate between 4:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m every day to reduce costs of energy until “the temperature and the situation of supply and demand” change.

In neighbouring Sichuan, authorities on Sunday extended industrial power cuts and activated their highest level of emergency response to deal with the heat wave. Hydropower generated in the province supplies domestic consumers and factories, but also industrial power stations in Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces.

“Since July this year, the province has faced the highest extreme temperatures, the lowest rainfall in the corresponding period in history… (and) the highest energy load in history,” local authorities said.

Some of the world’s largest automakers, including Japanese giants Toyota and Tesla, operate factories in Sichuan. The province is also home to manufacturers of parts that are crucial to global automotive supply chains.

Many major factories were forced to stop work due to Sichuan’s power outages, which were supposed to end on Saturday but were extended into Thursday, Chinese media outlet Caixin reported.

Analysts warned that Sichuan’s power problems could have a ripple effect on the broader Chinese economy and international supply chains.

Hottest known summer in China

China lived in 2022 its hottest summer since 1961, the year in which the Asian country began to officially record these data, with a national average temperature of 22.3 degrees Celsius between June 1 and August 31, according to the authorities. The climate of the Asian country.

This means that the temperature during this summer was “1.1 degrees Celsius higher than the same period in other regular years and the highest since 1961,” according to data from the Weather Administration.


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