Beijing Water

Beijing’s water supply unaffected by 100-day drought

Grainne Ryder
Probe International
February 9, 2009

Beijing’s water supply has been unaffected by the drought that has hit central and eastern parts of China, according to the Beijing Water Bureau. Ample rainfall last summer and the diversion of water from surrounding regions has kept the city’s reservoir levels high despite the latest 100-day dry spell.


Beijing started an “emergency” diversion program last September, pumping water from reservoirs in Hebei province through a 305-kilometre canal to reservoirs within the city’s jurisdiction.
The canal is part of the much bigger South-North water diversion project, which aims to take even more water to Beijing from the Yangtze river in the south starting in 2014.
Already three years behind schedule, China Daily reported at the end of January that US$3.11 billion would be invested in the project this year, with nearly half in bank loans.
Zhang Jirao, head of the south-north program office, is quoted saying the project will take 40 to 50 years to complete and will provide jobs for 500,000 to 600,000 people every year.
Critics, meanwhile, say diverting water from surrounding areas is too environmentally damaging and costly, and ultimately won’t reduce Beijing’s over-pumping of groundwater.
A study published by Probe International last year noted that the capital costs of diverting water to Beijing over long distances are subsidized by the central government and aren’t included in the city’s water rates.
The study recommends “full-cost pricing” for all water and sewerage infrastructure and services as a better approach to large-scale diversion projects, one that would quickly curb demand and encourage much-needed investment in water recycling, sewage treatment, and water-efficient technologies.
Read the study’s full set of recommenations in Beijing’s Water Crisis: 1949 – 2008 Olympics.

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