Beijing Water

Olympics water diversion scheme starts this month

March 11, 2008
To ensure Beijing has enough water for the Olympic games this August, about 300 million cubic metres of water will be diverted from Hebei province starting the end of this month, according to China Daily (04/03/08).

Beijing water authority director Jiao Zhizhong is quoted saying the project, which took four years to complete, has been “arduous and massive.”

As part of the massive South-to-North diversion scheme, the newly-completed Beijing section will divert water through three hundred kilometres of canals and pipes from four reservoirs in Hebei province.

If all goes as planned, Beijing will receive enough water to supply roughly 1.2 million Beijing residents for one year.

But Beijing’s gain is Hebei’s loss: according to Reuters, up to 500,000  people could face water shortages as a result of the diversion from the province which is already suffering severe drought conditions.

If the South-to-North project is completed as planned in 2010, the project is expected to supply about one billion cubic metres of water to the capital every year. Some of that water is expected to come from the Yangtze river in the southwest, where abnormally low water levels stranded dozens of ferries this past dry season.

On the demand side, Beijing officials insist they are doing all they can to reduce consumption in their city of 16 million people. Xinhua quotes Beijing water authority official, Yu Yaping, saying that the capital’s water consumption has decreased by about 500 million cubic metres since 1999, despite steadily growing demand across all sectors. Yu attributed this saving to the city’s conservation programs, including this year’s give-away of water saving devices to 30,000 low-income families.

Without independent verification, however, such claims about conservation are dubious. If water consumption has, in fact, decreased it may be due to restricted supply not necessarily to improvements in end-use efficiency.

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