Beijing Water

Whitewash: Beijing uses water to create fake snow as drought continues

(January 17, 2011) As Beijing suffers through its decades-long drought—with no precipitation for the last ten weeks—officials think it wise to use water from nearby lakes to provide residents with what is becoming a novel experience: snowfall.

Recent news reports say snow machines in six public parks are working overtime in order to stage snow-themed carnivals for residents.

In the crazy world of Beijing water policy, officials believe that because the water they are using to create snow is not drinkable, the scheme should not be considered wasteful. In total, snow machines have produced more than 60,000 cubic meters of snow, using over 30,000 tons of water. What happens to the snow when it melts isn’t entirely clear: it may sink into groundwater or drain away through the city’s river system.

Either way, the snow parks give a bizarre Potemkin village flavour to a city that is literally sinking as it drains its aquifers: according to the environmental organization, Probe International’s water crisis report, Beijing is using its groundwater faster than it can be recharged, creating a chronic deficit of around 600 million cubic metres and causing the city’s water table to fall 24 metres below sea level and to sink by 0.8 metres over the last decade.

To solve that problem, officials are pushing ahead with the mother of all mega-projects, the South-North Water Diversion Scheme, which will redirect water from neighbouring  watersheds, including the Yangtze, more than 1000 kilometres away.

But officials remain unfazed.

In another news report, one official believes Beijing’s water crisis is overblown, saying, “I don’t think the water shortage in Beijing is very severe.” He proceeds to thank the city’s neighbouring provinces for supporting Beijing by diverting water to his city.

Probe International, January 17, 2011

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