The Yellow River traverses north China, a water-scarce region where nearly half of the country’s population and industry reside. The Chinese per-capita water supply is a quarter of the world average, with the arid north enduring on merely 14 percent of the country’s water. After decades of unchecked development, the river continues its struggle for survival. Today, that fight has escalated to its headwaters on the Tibetan Plateau. Here, at an average altitude of 4,500 meters, patches of degraded land have connected to form vast deserts.