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1. COAL

As China's demand for coal soars, so does its water scarcity

XILINHOT, China -- By many measures, this northern Chinese city is an ideal candidate for being China's Wyoming. It has more brown coal reserves than any other Chinese region, and it is only 600 kilometers away from power-hungry Beijing. The sparsely populated landscape here provides enough space for new coal mines and downstream businesses. There's just one problem: The coal industry consumes huge amounts of water, while this land is one of China's driest.

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