China is set to carry out a new plan to protect groundwater resources as the authorities try to cope with a mounting challenge of excessive use in most provincial areas, a government official said on Sept 28.
A national plan on the use and protection of groundwater will soon be rolled out by the central government, Qi Bingqiang, an official with the Ministry of Water Resources, said at a news conference.
The plan will state clearly the concrete target of the groundwater exploitation of each provincial area. It will also set specific targets for the reduction of overuse in areas where the problem exists.
It is part of a nationwide effort to protect groundwater resources as overuse is a problem now facing 21 provincial areas. In some areas in North China, where water shortages are more severe, groundwater still accounts for more than 70 percent of the water supply, the ministry said in a guideline in August.
Overuse of groundwater now occurs in more than 300,000 square kilometers of Chinese territory, an area approximately the size of Italy. More than 17 billion cubic meters of water are being over-extracted from underground sources each year, he said.
Qi said the country will also launch a nationwide groundwater monitoring project as the water authority has set the target of building more than 20,000 groundwater monitor stations across the country.
“We will step up the online monitoring of major groundwater users to prevent them from over-extracting of the resources,” he said.
The authority will also employ a pricing plan to help protect the resources.
“In areas where there is a severe overuse problem, we will make sure the price of groundwater will be much higher than those from rivers or lakes,” he said.
He noted that a number of provincial areas have taken measures to protect the groundwater resources.
Legislators in Hebei and Shaanxi provinces have rolled out a provincial regulation on groundwater use, while in Beijing, the authorities have closed all extraction wells in urban areas.
Meanwhile, experts and legislators have called for a nationwide legislation on the use of groundwater resources.
Dong Xinguang, vice-chairman of the Standing Committee of the People’s Congress of the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, said in March that more than 50 cities in China are threatened by land subsidence as a result of groundwater overuse.
“The lack of a systematic and highly applicable law system is an important reason behind the sprawling groundwater overuse,” he said.