Beijing Water

Hope for a thirsty city: Rainwater harvesting in Beijing

China Watch (Worldwatch Institute)
June 20, 2006

While the central government hangs its hopes on huge river diversion projects in the south and city residents carefully monitor their taps, a third alternative does exist for easing Beijing’s water woes: rainwater utilization.

It is not sensational to predict that if China ever moves its capital city, this will be due largely to water shortages. The current capital, Beijing, is exuding dryness from every pore, particularly during the spring and fall when it is plagued by inland sandstorms and strong winds. The aridity is taking its toll on the city’s shrinking lakes, shallow backwater moats, and more than 15 million residents, many of whom suffer seasonal throat aches and other health effects. While the central government hangs its hopes on huge river diversion projects in the south and city residents carefully monitor their taps, a third alternative does exist for easing Beijing’s water woes: rainwater utilization. Without major rivers running through it, Beijing gets two-thirds of its water supply from groundwater. The city’s per capita water availability is only 300 cubic meters a year, roughly one-eighth the national level and one-thirtieth the global level. Around 300 million cubic meters of groundwater are overdrawn annually, and as Beijings population and water demand continue to grow, the situation is expected to only deteriorate. By contrast, the potential from rainwater exploitation is huge. According to the Beijing Municipal Water Authority, about 230 million cubic meters of rain water can be utilized annually, 110 times the quantity in Kunming Lake, a 220-hectare water body in northwest Beijing. Despite natural collection and the efforts of some 55 pilot rainwater utilization projects, rain water equivalent to around 100 Kunming lakes currently runs off and is wasted each year, stressing the city’s obsolete drainage system and contributing to urban flooding.

Categories: Beijing Water

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