Water use in Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei province will be capped at about 30 billion cubic meters annually by 2030 to protect the environment and encourage sustainable economic development in the region, under a draft plan released on Sept 10.
Nearly 26 billion cubic meters of water was consumed in 2012. But supplies are not keeping pace with growth, and greater efficiency will be needed to sustain the region, according to Li Yuanyuan, vice-president of the Water Resources and Hydropower Planning and Design Institute, who helped draft the plan.
Li said on Wednesday that improving water-use efficiency will play an important role in reaching the goal of 30 billion cubic meters.
He added that conserving water in industry and agriculture, along with accelerating wastewater treatment and the development of seawater desalination, will help local authorities as they pursue economic development.
Li said the draft is an important part of a regional integration plan, encouraged by the central government, to help local entities use water more scientifically and sustainably.
“Otherwise, water shortages will have a severe negative impact on future economic development and urbanization,” Li said.
Chen Ming, from the Ministry of Water Resources, agreed that protection and conservation are effective ways to alleviate the water crisis.
The plan will be launched after experts’ opinions are gathered and State Council approval is secured, Li said.
Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei province are among China’s thirstiest areas, with water availability per capita at a mere 239 cu m annually, a fraction of the international per-capita standard of 1,700 cu m annually, according to statistics released by the Ministry of Water Resources.
According to the international yardstick, any measure below 1,700 cu m represents a shortage.
To relieve the growing pressure, the central route of the South-to-North Water Diversion Project will open in late October. It is expected to provide about 5 billion cu m of water to Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei annually, according to the Beijing office responsible for the water diversion project.
But the problem is widespread. China suffers from severe water shortages, with more than 66 percent of cities facing scarcity, according to the ministry.
Wang Annan, deputy director of the ministry’s planning and programming department, said 172 new projects were approved by the State Council in May to expand irrigation and relocate water resources.
Wang said 17 projects will be launched this year, and all the projects will be started over the next six years, increasing annual water supplies by 80 billion cu m.
He said that the central government plans to invest 39 billion yuan ($6.4 billion) this year on key projects.