China Eco-City Tracker: The Upstream Battle for Drinkable Water

China deals with a challenging obstacle: it houses 20 per cent of the world’s population while just having 7 per cent of the world’s water resources. In addition, just 67.7 percent of China’s surface water is considered safe for human contact and over 75 per cent of its ground water is classified as poor or extremely poor. China’s water contamination issue is simply as severe as its dangerous smog. Adding to the obstacle, the currently scarce, useable water sources are unevenly dispersed geographically, resulting in water scarcities in over half of China’s cities, particularly in the northern areas.

In order to much better understand China’s water issues, we tracked the data of China’s 27 provinces and four direct-controlled towns over a four-year duration from 2013 to 2016 to determine China’s performance trend and gaps.

Understanding the Raindrops Across China

China’s water quality is divided into 5 grades depending upon its ecological function and protection targets (Chart 1). Frequently, water quality measurements are pooled into grades one to 3, which is considered drinkable, or grades 4 and above where it is considered hazardous to drink.

China gets most( 63 per cent)of its drinking water from surface area water sources. And according to 1,940 surface area water monitoring stations surveyed in China’s 2016 ecological report, almost a third of China’s surface area water is polluted to the point that it is unsafe for human contact (Chart 2).

To break this chart down much more, we ranked all 31 information points according to the portion between grades one and 3 and grades 4 and above (Chart 3). At very first glimpse, we see 100 per cent of surface water is safe to drink in the provinces of Tibet and Ningxia, both located in the less populous and less rich northwestern region of China. Alternatively, over half of the surface water is undrinkable in the worst performing provinces and cities (Beijing, Shanxi, Tianjin, Liaoning and Shanghai). Maybe not coincidentally, these more populous areas are concentrated in the economic epicentres of eastern and northeastern China.

The Upstream and Downstream Battle Since 2013

While a couple of noteworthy provinces have made strides in improving water quality considering that 2013, the remainder of the country is stagnant (Chart 4). The northwestern provinces of Qinghai and Shaanxi have actually been most successful, increasing the variety of keeping an eye on stations registering potable water by 36 and 23 per cent, respectively. On the opposite end of the scale, a couple of provinces are failing to keep their heads above the polluted water. Water quality in Hainan, Inner Mongolia Area, Jilin and Liaoning has really intensified considering that 2013. When it comes to Shanghai, its water quality aggravated by more than 34 percent in simply one year from 2015 to 2016.

Wastewater: The Carrot and the Stick

In addition to surface water quality, another key indication of water pollution is wastewater. Wastewater is an unintended result of industrialization and urbanization (Chart 5). Among the 31 significant cities, the leading 5 for wastewater discharge volumes are, not remarkably, the most financially established and densely inhabited areas of Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, Chongqing, and Tianjin. Those five cities alone released over 7.6 billion m ³ of wastewater in 2016. That suffices to fill Lake Superior, the world’s third-largest freshwater lake, 633 times over. And that is only 16 percent of China’s total wastewater discharge volume. This begs the question: is the nation efficient in solving such a challenging issue?

While the scale of the issue is challenging to fathom, there is a twinkle of hope when taking a look at the portion of wastewater dealt with in the 31 major cities (chart 5). In 2016, all cities dealt with more than 90 percent of their wastewater with four exceptions, Nanning, Lhasa, Xining and Huhehot. These numbers can misguide us as treatment quality and techniques differ across the nation, making these numbers cause for additional examination.

Building the Dam on Water Contamination, Branch by Branch

“With air, you stop contamination at the source, and the blue skies return instantly,” stated Ma Jun, director of the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs. Unlike air, water has its own cycle, which in a manner makes the problem a lot more resistant to short-term and small-scale solutions. Alleviating the lethal pollution that streams throughout China’s whole water system will require a thorough option.

The foundation of China’s water improvement goals is the 2015 Action Intend On Water Pollution Prevention and Control, likewise typically referred to as the “Water 10 Plan.” Ambitious goals of this plan consist of making a minimum of 93 percent (currently at 67 per cent) of all metropolitan drinking water sources to actually offer safe and clean water by 2020. In 2014, Premier Li Keqiang reserve US$ 330 billion to tackle the concern of water contamination particularly. Following the nationwide motion, provincial and city governments are likewise buying clean-up efforts.

China’s water quality problems are not confined to its own borders, however reach far beyond the Great Wall into the world’s oceans, seafood and eco-systems. With the developments made this decade, there is no better time for China, and the rest of the world, to ride the tidal bore of development in renewable resource, clean tech and environmental stewardship to improve water quality. With Canada’s proficiency in these locations, specifically water removal and treatment technologies from British Columbia and Ontario, this supplies a perfect opportunity for Canadians clean-tech firms to fulfill China’s need.

Also in APF Canada’s brand-new China Eco-City Tracker web series:

Click here to download a digital chapbook of the entire series, or read our blogs online, below.

China Eco-City Tracker: Web Series Introduction – China Eco-City Tracker: A Cleaning in the ‘Airpocalypse’ for China
China Eco-City Tracker: The Upstream Fight for Drinkable Water
China Eco-City Tracker: Taking On Trash Troubles with New Policies, Charges
China Eco-City Tracker: Lessons From the Danes and the Finns
China Eco-City Tracker: Navigating the ‘Valley of Death’: Funding and Advertising Canada’s Cleantech Industry
China Eco-City Tracker: China’s
Tidy Tech Dedication – China Eco-City Tracker: China’s Clean Tech Decision-making




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