The available per capita water usage in Beijing has dropped to 100 cubic meters, much lower than the internationally acknowledged warning line of 1,000 cubic meters per capita, according to the Beijing Water Authority. Needless to say that Beijing faces extremely severe water shortage. Beijing authorities have to urgently find ways to deal with such a severe water shortage, says an article in Beijing News.
If we look at history, we will see that Beijing had rather abundant sources of water. But the 84 reservoirs built in the 1950s to prevent floods in the Yongding River have transformed Beijing from a city with rich water sources into one facing acute water shortage.
Besides, the rapid industrialization and fast-paced economic growth have combined to make water shortage a problem integral to the capital's urban development.
The expanding boundaries of the city and the rapidly growing urban population and economy have greatly changed the natural cycling and recycling of water. Since the normal ecological capacity and ecosystem have been broken, less natural water is available for use in Beijing today.
Statistics show that water in the Guanting and Miyun reservoirs is no more than 10 percent of the capacity each was designed to hold.
These developments do not augur well for Beijing and its residents, as well as its industrialization and urbanization.
To tackle the capital's water problems, the huge and expensive river water diversion project was put forward. But Hebei, Beijing's neighboring province and some provinces and regions in the South, too, have been suffering from water shortage and even droughts.
According to a report issued by the World Bank, China faces the challenge of effective management of its water sources to maintain its economic growth. Many cities in other countries have chosen to distribute their water resources according to natural units.
In fact, Beijing used to have a management office covering the water management of different provinces and regions. But it was shut down, after which the quality and volume of water in the Guanting reservoir declined dramatically. The result: it has been unable to provide drinking water for Beijing residents since 1997. The water shortage in Beijing has been aggravated by the emergence of high water-consuming industries. Also, a lot of water is wasted in urban households, something that can be stopped easily if proper measures are taken. Successive droughts have worsened the water shortage in Beijing.
All these are warning for the capital's authorities to find ways to change the economic development pattern, expedite the transition of industries to make them more water-friendly and accelerate technological and systemic innovation to lower the demand and consumption of water.