Beijing’s Thirst Is Literally Sinking The Entire City At Record Rates

In the meantime, the team of seven researchers, who explained their findings to The Guardian, say they are now carrying out further analysis on the possible impacts of subsidence on infrastructure in the Beijing plain.

Using satellite imagery and Global Positioning System data, geologists looked at topographical data from 2003-2010 and found China’s capital city is sinking at a fast pace, according to a Sunday article published from CNN.

The causes are a combination of the rapid building on the surface; and the city’s excessive groundwater extraction.

Study findings clearly show that the entire city of Beijing is sinking, but the problem is most evident in the city’s Chaoyang district, which is a highly populated area that has exploded with skyscrapers and other development since 1990. The state has regulatory power over installation of wells but is inconsistent in applying it, according to one leading Chinese environmentalist.

The districts of Chaoyang, Changping, Shunyi, and Tongzhou are the most severely impacted areas.

Researchers say that the uneven nature of the terrain in this part of China’s capital city already poses a risk to buildings and infrastructure.

This is especially true for the high-speed railway that keeps this city at a constant flow of people going to and from their hundreds of thousands of destinations each day.

That’s because most of Beijing’s water supply comes from underground and as it is extracted more aggressively it dries out the subterranean ground which compacts, sending the city lower.

In Beijing, groundwater is the main water source – two thirds – for everything from industrial and agricultural use to household consumption.

The study’s authors warned if groundwater continues to be pumped at excessive rates, the city’s 20 million citizens could be in danger.

The government completed the construction of a £48-billion ($65 billion), 2,400-kilometer (1,491 miles) network of tunnels and canals. China media outlet Sina estimates that the capital requires 3.5 billion liters of water per year.


Even before the canal project began, the Chaoyang district planned to remove more than 360 water wells in January 2015 that would reduce 10 million cubic meters of underground water.

The study on Beijing’s subsidence has been published in the peer-reviewed journal Remote Sensing and is based on InSAR a radar that monitors land elevation