The Global Drain: China’s Groundwater Pollution Problems and Why They Should Matter to The Rest of the World

Centre for Contemporary Chinese Studies, The University of Melbourne

Dr Matthew Currell

5.30-7.00pm Thursday 14 September, 2017
Old Geology, Theatre 2, University of Melbourne, Parkville

Recent nation-wide surveys of water quality in China have revealed a crisis in the extent and severity of groundwater pollution throughout China’s aquifers, in both urban and agricultural regions. Hundreds of millions of Chinese people depend on groundwater for drinking water and their livelihoods, and many are suffering adverse health effects from pollution, as is evident with the emergence of ‘Cancer Villages’. This lecture will outline the major sources and mechanisms of groundwater pollution in China, explore links between pollution, trade and the global economy – including China’s emergence as the world’s manufacturing powerhouse – and analyse the Chinese government’s recent policy response to the crisis, including the development of the ‘Water 10 Plan’ in 2015.


Dr Matthew Currell is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Engineering at RMIT University. After graduating with Honours in Earth Sciences and a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Melbourne in 2006, he received his PhD from Monash University in 2011. His PhD focused on the use of environmental isotopes to assess sustainability of groundwater usage rates and controls on groundwater quality in water-stressed regions of northern China. He has published more than 25 peer-reviewed international journal articles and is on the editorial board of the Hydrogeology Journal. He is fluent in mandarin Chinese and frequently collaborates with the Chinese Academy of Sciences on groundwater sustainability research.