Intel sucks up water amid drought in China

Intel is going head-to-head with businesses like Coca-Cola to swallow up scarce water resources in the developing world, business newswire Bloomberg reported this week.

According a 2009 report by California's Pacific Institute, 2.4 billion of the world's population lives in "water-stressed" countries such as China and India.

Chip fabrication plants in those countries, as well factories such as the soft drink giant's bottling plants, are swallowing up scarce resources needed by the 1.6 billion people who rely on water for farming.

“Water will become the next big power, not only in China but the whole world,” Li Haifeng, vice president of sewage treatment company Beijing Enterprises Water Group told Bloomberg.

“Wars may start over the scarcity of water,” he warned.

China's 1.33 billion citizens each have 2,117 cubic metres of water available to them per year, compared with 1,614 cubic metres in India. In the US, consumers can count on as much as 9,943 cubic metres.

And the problem is getting worse. Chinese water consumption is set to rise by 32 per cent over the next 20 years. In India, demand is expected to double. At the current rate, India will have exhausted its fresh water supplies by 2050.

The weakest monsoon for more than three decades cut rice output in India last year by as much as 10 per cent, while southwestern China suffered its worst drought in a century earlier this year.

China has already polluted 70 per cent of its rivers and lakes, while half of all cities suffer contaminated groundwater.

According to Intel's own 2009 corporate responsibility report, published last week, the company's chip fabrication plant at Pudong in China uses 1.68 million cubic metres of water a year. An analysis of the firm's stats in eco-news website Environmental Leader reveals that water consumption has increased by 38 per cent per chip, due to lower manufacturing levels and increasingly complex manufacturing processes. A single processor requires approximately 12 US gallons of water (0.055 cubic metres).

No one at Intel was available to comment on the company's water use in China or India.