MKM says the reasons for the water shortages are clear: this is a dry part of China, from deforestation and inefficient use of water. Add all that together and it's a perfect storm. And yet Beijing expects to use 30% more water during the Olympics and it also wants to flush out lakes and canals and whatever it can. (When you go to these provinces that are parched, what's it like?) I went to one city and at the time I was there people were only getting water a couple hours a day. At that point, a person would fill up their tubs, their washing machines, etc and that was what they had to work with for the day. (Is it clean?) Most of the water in China is polluted. (Tell us about this one official who's been outspoken about his complaints). He's a former Communist Chief for this town I mentioned, and he says there could be a possible social and environmental disaster because of scarce water resources. They want to be compensated. (Are those requests unusual?) Yes it is, most officials are just trying to present a unified front. But farmers are hurting, and water is essential.