Drought shrinks China’s biggest freshwater lake to 10% of usual size

The province has received an average of 132.2 millimetres of rain since July, 57 percent less than average and the lowest on record for the period.

Hou Liqiang and Wang Jian

Hou Liqiang and Wang Jian

China Daily


People stroll on a stone bridge on Aug 27 that used to be submerged under water, after Poyang Lake, China's largest freshwater lake, shrank due to a continuous drought in Duchang county, Jiangxi province. LI JIE/FOR CHINA DAILY

September 8, 2022

BEIJING – Lake Poyang, the largest freshwater body in China, has declined to just 10 percent of its normal size since the onset of drought in August, according to the local water resources authority.

With water levels at the landmark Xingzi hydrological station dropping to 7.99 meters, the lake entered an extreme low-water state at 8 am on Tuesday, the earliest this has happened since records began in 1951, according to media release from the hydrological monitoring center in Jiangxi province, where Poyang is located.

This is 115 days earlier than usual and also breaks the previous record of Nov 30, which was set in 2019, by 85 days.

Jiangxi has received an average of 132.2 millimeters of rain since July, 57 percent less than average and the lowest on record for the period. Continuing heat has resulted in average evaporation levels of 329 mm across the province.

“Poyang’s water levels dropped from 12 meters to 8 meters in only 31 days. This is historically rare,” the center noted.

As a result, its water surface has shrunk to an area of 291 square kilometers, or 10 percent of its usual size. The volume of water in the lake is also only about 10 percent of normal.

Consistently high temperatures, low rainfall and a significant decrease in water emptying into Poyang are to blame, the center said.

Monitoring stations on five major rivers that empty into Poyang have reported decreases of 30 to 80 percent less in runoff since July. The situation has been exacerbated since the middle of August, the center said, adding that the lake has also received much less water from the Yangtze River.

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