(September 10, 2010) Officials are taking what many experts say are dangerous steps to combat Beijing’s worsening water crisis, writes Li Shuang in Global Times.
Beijing is considering extracting more underground water from Pinggu, Shunyi or Fangshan districts to combat a serious water shortage, a move many water experts argue is too dangerous.
“We can’t afford to extract any more underground water when the ground in Fangshan and Shunyi is already sinking,” said Zhou Ji, dean of the Department of Environmental Studies at Renmin University.
With signs of ground sinking already showing, the danger of over-extracting underground water are multiplied, he warned.
Beijing is 300 million cubic meters short of water until the final phase of the South-North Water Transfer Project reaches the capital in 2014, bringing 1 billion cubic meters of water every year.
After an extra-dry summer, the city is considering tapping into already scarce reserves of underground water.
“We’re looking into a few spots to drill near existing pipes for lower costs,” said Chen Tie, a senior engineer of the Beijing Water Authority, at the 50-year anniversary of the completion of Miyun Reservoir Wednesday.
“We will have to drill up to 1,000 meters down.”
Miyun Reservoir, Beijing’s most important surface water source, is holding 963 million cubic meters of water at the end of this year’s rainy season, 200 million cubic meters less than the same time last year.
That amount of water is the lowest in five years, according to the Beijing Water Authority, which makes the shortage particularly acute this year.
Experts warned about the repercussions of over-extracting underground water.
“The ground of Shunyi is sinking about 880 millimeters a year, which is a conservative number,” said Wang Jian, a water resource expert and a consultant to the Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau.
“Shunyi has it the worst because it has lots of water-consuming enterprises like Yanjing beer and Huiyuan juice. A third of broken water pipes last year were caused by the sinking ground.”
Beijing started to over-extract its underground water in the ’60s, said Ma Jun, director of the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs.
“The whole plain is now a funnel zone,” Ma said. “Beijing relies on underground water, which is completely unsustainable.”
The largest amount of underground water Beijing can extract every year is 2.1 billion cubic meters, according to Ministry of Land and Resources research from January.
“The 2.1 billion cubic meters is calculated including precipitation in the area, but Beijing extracts 5 to 6 million cubic meters more than that every year,” Wang Jian said.
Beijing obtains 5 billion cubic meters of water every year, according to the Beijing General Urban Planning 2004-2020.
That’s only enough for 17 million people using 300 cubic meters of water per person per year. The city’s population reached 19.72 million at the end of last year.
“The population explosion is the main reason for Beijing’s water shortage, because industrial and agricultural water use have both been dropping over the years,” Wang said.
“The only solution is to control the population by moving work and investment opportunities to Tianjin or Hebei Province,” Zhou Ji said.
Li Shuang, Global Times, September 10, 2010
Categories: Beijing Water