Despite difficulties and challenges, builders manage to complete water tunnels to a tight schedule.[Photo/China Daily]
Centering on Beijing’s strategic development plan, the capital is advancing construction of the massive South-to-North Water Diversion Project to ensure safe water usage, according to a leading local official.
The project is a key national initiative to divert water flows in southern China－which has plenty of rivers and rainfall－to the more arid north of the country.
It will connect the Yangtze River, Yellow River, Huaihe River and Haihe River systems, and will benefit an estimated 438 million people along the routes in the east, center and west.
“It is our consistent commitment to the project to relieve the problem of water shortages and enable more people to have access to high-quality drinking water,” said He Fengci, deputy director and spokeswoman of the Beijing office of the South-to-North Water Diversion Project.
The first phase of the central route began operating at the end of 2014. By mid-December this year, some 3 billion cubic meters of water had been piped from the south to Beijing, 2.4 billion cu m to Tianjin, 4 billion cu m to Henan province and 1.4 billion cu m to Hebei province.
Beijing has long been short of water, but the situation has changed greatly since the South-to-North Water Diversion Project, He said.
Starting in September 2008, water from neighboring Hebei was diverted to Beijing. From the end of 2014, the Yangtze River was added to Beijing’s water sources.
It took nearly six years to pipe 1.6 billion cu m of water from Hebei to Beijing, while within just over two years, the amount of water flowing from the Yangtze River to the capital topped 2.6 billion cu m, she noted.
“In pursuit of innovation in technology, operating mechanisms and management－for improved quality, efficiency and safety－our team has gained rich experience in maintaining operations and handling emergencies, and created standard operational and management systems,” the spokeswoman said.
She cited Daning Reservoir in Beijing as an example to illustrate how the project has changed the lives of locals.
The reservoir was built in 1985 to curb floods in the Yongding River. It was dried up in the 1990s, leaving its bottom exposed to rubble and sand, or overgrown with weeds. In windy spring and autumn days, nearby residents couldn’t open their windows because of frequent sandstorms from the abandoned site.
The water project gave the reservoir a new lease on life, as southern water flowed through it.
The reservoir works not only for flood control, but also for water storage and environmental protection.
The reuse of the reservoir also helped recover one of eight classic attractions in ancient Beijing－a picturesque view of Lugou Bridge spanning Xiaoyue Lake in the moonlight－as water that was used to wash through the pipeline was recycled to be pumped into the lake.
Another highlight of the water diversion project is the addition of Guogongzhuang Water Plant in the south of Beijing to the city’s water supply system.
Before the project, major water plants clustered in the north and west of the city. In contrast, the southern areas were weak in infrastructure for water supply.
With the water diversion project progressing, experts designed the new state-of-the-art plant, which will be able to supply 500,000 cu m of water on a daily basis.
In addition, Beijing No 10 Water Plant is under construction and Yizhuang Water Plant is in the pipeline for the east of Beijing.
He Fengci said the flowing of Yangtze River water into Beijing signaled an “optimization” of the city’s water supply landscape.
The changes to Beijing’s water plant network also relates to the city development strategy.
An exemplary project is Tongzhou Water Plant, which handles all its water from the South-to-North Water Diversion Project. The plant’s initial phase went into operation in late August, nearly three years ahead of schedule.
The facility is located in Tongzhou district, where Beijing plans to build a lesser administrative center. The district is also in proximity to Hebei province, and so seen of significance in promoting the planned integrated development of the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region.
As one of the first batch of infrastructure projects, the water plant will improve local water quality and support the construction of the city’s administrative center, He said.
Given the large gap between water demand and supply, there is still a long way to go for the national water diversion project, she added.
“In the future, we will continue to increase efficiency in management and water use, and promote restoration of the ecological system.”