Beijing Water

Water shortage in Chinese cities – what the public thinks

(September 5, 2011) City-dwellers in China say they have an urban water crisis with shortages and pollution posing the gravest threats, a new survey reveals.

In a country where public opinion is not always welcome, the recent release of the Friends of Nature “Survey Report on Public Awareness and of Water Resource Use in Six Chinese Cities,” attracted an impressive turnout of representatives from almost 50 Chinese media outlets.

The polls, conducted earlier this year, showed that nearly half of the people interviewed believed there was a serious shortage of water in cities, and that nearly 60% were concerned about water quality and safety, while almost 80% thought water should be recycled.

Friends of Nature, China’s oldest environmental NGO, surveyed residents in six cities: Beijing, Hangzhou, Nanjing, Shanghai, Wuhan and Zhengzhou.

In general, those surveyed believe China’s big cities face common concerns in terms of water quality and supply, with more respondents in Beijing, Shanghai and Zhengzhou ranking water shortages as a primary problem, while respondents in Nanjing, Wuhan and Hangzhou rated pollution as their No. 1 issue.

According to the surveys’ results, 47% of respondents overall believe that water shortages in their cities is a very serious issue. Beijing residents – at 77% – ranked highest in this belief, followed by Shanghai and Zhengzhou.

Rapid urban expansion, water pollution, inefficient use, falling precipitation rates, climate change and low water prices were cited by respondents as the main reasons for the water shortages. Of these, the first three are identified as the most likely causes: by 53%, 50% and 48% of respondents.

Of those cities surveyed, more people in Shanghai connected water shortages to population size; Nanjing respondents registered as more worried about water pollution; Zhengzhou as more concerned about the waste of water; and Beijing and Zhengzhou respondents as the most likely to identify climate change as the cause of the decline in the city’s precipitation, and thus affecting water supply.

The surveys also showed that 70% of respondents identified public bathing facilities, car washes, indoor swimming pools, ski resorts and golf courses as the biggest water wasters. More than half of the people interviewed agreed that big water users should be compelled to use water-saving technologies, and 45% said economic mechanisms, such as higher water prices, should be used to compel large users to improve efficiency.

Nearly 80% of respondents believe water shortages have become a very pressing public policy issue in their cities, with 80% of this group in favour of recycling water. More than two-thirds argue for the domestic use of recycled water to help conserve water and 27.7% believe that recycled water would be less expensive to use and would help to reduce the cost of water consumption.

However, as the survey revealed, recycled water use is still very low. Currently, only 7% of the respondents reported having installed recycled water facilities in their homes, though nearly 60% said that they hoped to do so. Of the six cities, residents in Beijing have the strongest desire to install these facilities in their homes, followed by Shanghai.

In order to reverse the growing urban water crisis, respondents expressed the hope that governments would do a better job of improving wastewater treatment, promoting water recycling and conservation, and punishing profligate water users.

Yang Dongping, Chairman of Friends of Nature, said the results of the six-city survey demonstrate that while people are aware that their cities suffer from water shortages, this awareness may not reflect the true state of the crisis. For that reason, it is important and necessary to fully inform the public of water shortages and to take all actions possible to conserve water in urban areas, he said.

View coverage of the media response in China to the Friends of Nature survey:

Aug. 10, 2011 – Legal Evening News (Fazhi wanbao 法制晚报): More than 70% of citizens in six cities nationwide believe golf courses and other sectors are the biggest wasters of water resources.

Aug. 10, 2011 – Legal Daily (Fazhi ribao 法制日报): More than half of Beijing’s residents are not satisfied with the quality of their tap water.

Aug. 11, 20011 – Xinhua Net: Domestic water consumption is much larger than industrial water consumption: domestic water wastage is worse, too.

Aug. 10, 2011 – Shanghai Morning Post (Shanghai chenbao 上海晨报): More than 70% of citizens in Shanghai believe that the car-washing industry wastes water.

Aug. 10, 2011 – Liberation Daily ( Jiefang ribao 解放日报): More than 60% of residents in Shanghai are aware of the water shortage problem in their city.

Aug. 11, 2011 – Beijing Daily (Beijing ribao 北京日报): Survey: 90% of residents in Beijing support water conservation and the use of recycled water.

Aug. 11, 2011 – Legal Daily (Fazhi ribao 法制日报): More than 70% of citizens in six cities nationwide feel golf courses wasted the most water.

Aug 11/2011 – (中国低碳网): Water shortages getting worse in urban areas, citizens in six cities nationwide back the use of recycled water. Also from (中国低碳网), Professor Yang Dongping- water conservation is more effective than water diversion in reigning in luxury water consumption. See also:

Aug. 12, 2011 – Science Times (Kexue shibao 科学时报): Awakening public awareness of water crisis.

Aug. 12, 2011 – New Beijing News (Xinjing bao 新京报): Golf courses become the most wasteful users of water.

Aug. 12, 2011 – Science Times (Kexue shibao 科学时报): Yang Dongping, Chairman of the Friends of Nature: municipal government should release accurate and timely hydrological data.

Aug. 12, 2011 –National Business Daily (Meiri jingji xinwen 每日经济新闻): Water shortages in urban areas gets worse: nearly 80% of the public support the use of recycled water.

Aug. 14, 2011 – Science and Technology Daily (Keji ribao 科技日报): Water surveys: nearly 60% of urban citizens expressed concern about the safety of water sources.

Aug 12, 2011 – (Sohu 搜狐): Why is it difficult to use recycled water in our cities? See:

Aug. 15, 2011 – Beijing Times (Jinghua shibao 京华时报): About 80% of respondents in six cities surveyed feel Beijing is the city facing the most serious water shortage problem.

Aug. 15, 2011 – China Youth Daily (Zhongguo qingnian bao 中国青年报): Who opened the water supply valve for golf courses?

Aug. 17, 2011 – Worker’s Daily (Gongren ribao 工人日报): Survey: nearly 80% of Beijing residents back the use of the recycled water.

Aug. 11, 2011 – (Sohu 搜狐): Water survey reports released: 60% of urban citizens concerned about water safety while 70% say golf courses are most wasteful. See also:

Aug. 18, 2011 – People’s Daily (Renmin ribao 人民日报): Survey: nearly 80% of Beijing residents back recycled water use.

Aug. 31, 2011 – China Environment News (Zhongguo huanjingbao 中国环境报):NGO conducted survey on public awareness of water resource.

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