Will capital swallow Yellow River? Any plans to alleviate the capital's chronic water shortages by transferring water from the Yellow ...
Any plans to alleviate the capital's chronic water shortages by transferring water from the Yellow River, China's second longest waterway, might be misguided, say water resource experts.
However, government water management offices denied that there are any definite plans for such a project.
During a week-long campaign to promote drinking water hygiene by Beijing Waterworks Group, local media sources alleged that the waterworks group had hinted a "Yellow River to Beijing" water diversion project was to get the go-ahead.
According to the reports, water from the Yellow River is to go to Guanting Reservoir in Hebei Province, and water from Hebei will flow through to Miyun Reservoir in Beijing.
The two major reservoirs provide one third of Beijing's water, reported the Beijing News on Monday.
Du Pengfei, an expert on water resources with Tsinghua University, told 21st Century Economic Report that the middle and lower reaches of the Yellow River also suffer from severe water shortages.
"If the project is started, where should the water come from?" noted Du.
Both Beijing Waterworks Group and Beijing Water Resources Bureau yesterday denied that Beijing is planning to transfer water from the Yellow River.
However, the idea of getting water from the Yellow River has been proposed, and is under discussion, according to previous media reports.
Last year, Bi Xiaogang, vice director with Beijing Water Resources Bureau, admitted there had been preliminary discussion of the project, reported People's Daily Online in May, 2011.
"It's too early to talk about the project because it is still under study and technical preparation," said Bi.
Water from the Yellow River was used to supply Baiyangdian Lake in 2008, the largest freshwater lake in the North China Plain. The lake's usual water supply, provided by several other reservoirs, was diverted to Beijing for use during the Olympics, reported China News in 2008.
Although Beijing transfers water from Hebei and Shanxi Provinces every year, it is not enough because the two provinces still lack water, Du said.
"To maintain the current water use, Beijing has to keep on exploiting groundwater excessively before 2014," Du told the Economic Report.
In 2014, the South-to-North Water Diversion Project, which will bring water from the Yangtze River to the dry north of China, is set to start flowing. It can transfer 1 billion cubic meters of water every year, said the Beijing Times.
"Beijing's water shortage crisis is not only that many rivers have no water now, but also its groundwater level is falling seriously," said Ma Jun, director with the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs.
Beijing's groundwater level has sunk from an average of 12 meters below the surface in 1999 to 24 meters below the surface in 2010, reported the Beijing Times in April.
Beijing began to exploit groundwater resources extensively since 1972, when there was a serious drought. Two-thirds of Beijing's water use comes from underground.
Ma proposed the capital should resupply groundwater resources when the diversion project comes into effect in 2014.
This year the capital only has a water supply of 2.4 billion cubic meters due to drought conditions, which have lasted 13 years, and still needs a billion more cubic meters, according to the Water Resources Bureau, reported the Legal Mirror in late April.
"For decades, the city has focused on water supply, exploiting groundwater, transferring from nearby provinces, and even areas 1,000 kilometers away," said Ma.
There are to be new water-saving measures starting in July, focusing on saving resources and proper disposal of waste water, said Beijing Water Resources Bureau.
"The best way of dealing with water shortages," said Ma, "is for resources to be conserved and for the supply to be better managed."