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Diverted waters quench capital
By Li Jing (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-10-19 06:04

Nearly 100 million tons of water from North China's Shanxi and Hebei provinces is winding its way to the nation's capital to quench its thirst.

The arrival of the first drops in Beijing tomorrow morning, having travelled 180 kilometres over three days, will come as welcome respite to the city which is being hit by drought for the seventh year in a row.

Most of the water, diverted as part of the 20 day project, will flow into the Guanting Reservoir - one of the city's two major reservoirs - and is reserved for industrial use, according to the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Water Affairs.

According to the bureau, water levels in the Guanting Reservoir have fallen to less than 125 million cubic metres, down from 560 million cubic metres in 1998.

The on-going water diversion project is the third of its kind since 2003. Over the past two years, nearly 150 million cubic metres of water from reservoirs in Shanxi and Hebei provinces have been transferred to Beijing, which consumes around 3.5 billion cubic metres of water annually.

Zhang Shouquan, deputy head of the bureau, said the trans-regional water diversion would be carried out once a year according to a long-term plan made by the central government in 2000 to ensure water supply for the capital.

Zhang said that about 60 million cubic metres of the total water transferred this time came from the Cetian Reservoir in Shanxi, 13 million from the Huliuhe Reservoir, 12 million from the Yunzhou Reservoir and 10 million from the Youyi Reservoir. The last three reservoirs are all in Hebei.

As one of China's most populous regions, Beijing's average annual per-capita water availability is only around 200 cubic metres. The international benchmark for an area suffering acute water shortage is 1,000 cubic metres or less per person.

Embattled by successive years of drought, Beijing has been grappling with ways to secure new water sources.

The city has already finished three groundwater projects in districts of Huairou, Fangshan and Pinggu respectively.

Called "emergency water suppliers," these projects have so far channelled more than 350 million cubic metres of groundwater to central Beijing, according to bureau statistics.

The capital will also benefit from a national water diversion project, which aims to send water from rain-filled rivers in southern China to the parched north.

The epic north-to-south diversion project is expected to provide Beijing with 1.2 billion cubic metres of water annually by 2010, when it is completed.

Apart from searching for new water sources, the thirsty city is also looking for ways to save water, a key part of the battle against drought.

Enterprises in the city have been urged to use water more efficiently. Residents have also been encouraged to buy efficient taps, showerheads and toilets.

(China Daily 10/19/2005 page3)

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