Beijing Water

Inspection of city water usage

Tao Mengying
Global Times
March 22, 2010

The authorities are launching an inspection of venues in Beijing that consume the largest amounts of water, with a focus on public baths, as countries around the globe mark World Water Day today.

The City Management Enforcement Bureau and the Beijing Water Administration and Law-enforcement Office will work together to check on places with a high demand for water, including hotels, restaurants, public baths and construction sites. Those that do not have any water saving facilities will face a fine of up to 100,000 yuan ($14,650).

As Southwest China struggles with a severe drought and sandstorms have swept North China, water shortage has become an important issue for both decision-makers and the general public.

Bath centers in Beijing consume about 81 million tons of water per year, which equals 41 times the volume of Kunming Lake at the Summer Palace, according to the 2010 China Environmental Green Paper published Friday by the China Academy of Social Sciences and environmental NGO, Friends of Nature.

Most of the public baths use deep underground water, which is unsustainable. The shower nozzles are also oversized, and the strong flow increases the waste, said Ma Jun, dean of the Institute of Public & Environmental Affairs.

In a city which has a desperate shortage of water, extravagantly using the water in luxurious public baths seems like a status symbol, Ma said.

He added that the serious waste of water is also commonplace in many companies and organizations, where the employees believe the water is paid by public funds rather than by citizens.

Hu Kanping, author of the Green Paper, suggested that Beijing should learn from other cities and implement regulations governing public baths. He also called on these venues to use water conservation systems.

This has triggered a debate on whether public baths should be closed, or subject to various restrictions. Zhu Xu, a commentator of The Voice of China, a program broadcast by China National Radio, presses for the closure of public baths. He argued that bath centers nowadays serve more as a place for business discussions or other health and beauty treatments rather than simply a place to take a bath, adding that such activities can take place elsewhere. “When water shortage is threatening our survival, we should drop the unnecessary,” he said.

“It’s unfair to just close bath centers. There are people who need us and there’s a huge market,” Manager Wang of Yihai Bath center said. “We have water saving facilities, and we control the water changing procedure.”

The Green Paper also pointed out that the per capita water consumption in Beijing is 248 cubic meters, less than one eighth of the national level and five percent of the world level.

When asked about the coming inspection, Wang said he was confident. “We won’t prepare for it. We will operate normally.”

Ma suggested that the government should implement strict regulations to restrict the opening of new public baths, which should have their shower nozzles redesigned and come up with regulations for daily water consumption.

Apart from large water consumers, Beijing will promote metered water prices, based on the amount of water used, for household consumers. A scheme is being discussed and a pilot project will be launched before June.

Read the original article here

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